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Belarus protests: 73-year-old opposition activist among hundreds detained in Minsk

Law enforcement officers detain an opposition activist Nina Baginskaya, 73-year-old, during a rally to protest against the Belarus presidential election results in Minsk on September 19, 2020.   | Photo Credit: AFP

Belarusian police detained hundreds of protesters in central Minsk on Saturday, a witness said, as around 2,000 people marched through the city demanding that President Alexander Lukashenko step down.

Belarus, a former Soviet republic closely allied with Russia, has been rocked by mass street protests since Lukashenko claimed a landslide victory in an August 9 presidential election that his opponents say was rigged. He denies their accusation.

Also read: Editorial | Mayhem in Minsk

Saturday's protesters, most of them women, briefly scuffled with police who then blocked their path and started picking people one by one out of the crowd, the witness said.

 

In one location, dozens of female protesters could be seen encircled by men in green uniforms and black balaclavas outside a shopping mall as they shouted “Only cowards beat women!”

Among the detained was 73-year-old opposition activist Nina Baginskaya who has become an icon of the protest movement after scuffling with armed policemen last month.

Law enforcement officers detain a woman during a rally to protest against the Belarus presidential election results in Minsk on September 19, 2020.

Law enforcement officers detain a woman during a rally to protest against the Belarus presidential election results in Minsk on September 19, 2020.   | Photo Credit: AFP

 

After the police stopped detaining people, the remaining protesters formed a chain along one of the central streets of the capital and chanted “Long live Belarus!”

Lukashenko's crackdown on the protests has prompted the European Union to weigh fresh sanctions against his government.

Minsk reacted angrily on Saturday to reports that Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the leading opposition candidate in last month's election, could soon meet EU foreign ministers.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also criticised the EU for inviting Tsikhanouskaya to the ministerial meeting as well as for considering sanctions against Minsk, saying Brussels was trying to “rock the boat” in Belarus.

Women with old Belarusian national flags march during an opposition rally to protest the official presidential election results in Minsk, Belarus, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020.

Women with old Belarusian national flags march during an opposition rally to protest the official presidential election results in Minsk, Belarus, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020.   | Photo Credit: AP

 

Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus for 26 years, says the protesters are being backed by foreign powers and has offered to end the standoff with constitutional reforms but he refuses to stand down.

Earlier this month he secured a $1.5 billion lifeline from Moscow.

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Printable version | Oct 31, 2020 10:38:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/belarus-protests-73-year-old-opposition-activist-among-hundreds-detained-in-minsk/article32652128.ece

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