At least 245 protesters were arrested in protests in Belarus against President Lukashenko, according to human rights organizations. The opposition hoped to stir up a ‘new wave of protest’ in the Eastern European country with Saturday’s demonstration.
It is unclear how big the turnout was at the protests, because independent journalists have been arrested and their foreign colleagues are banned. News media covering the large-scale protests last summer and in the autumn have largely been silenced. Some journalists have been sentenced to two years in prison.
Protest marches on important squares or main roads of the capital Minsk were not possible today, because the riot police had closed all access roads. That is why the protesters moved to a square outside the center of the city.
Images circulating on social media such as Telegram show the rioters cracking down on the protesters. On a video agents appear to be firing at fleeing demonstrators.
Here’s how a cyclist is arrested by rioters while bystanders try to help him:
According to the Belarusian Ministry of the Interior, there were no major protests. A spokesperson said there were only “a few small groups with unregistered symbols.” This refers to the use of the prohibited white-red flag. The opposition is using this old Belarus flag as a protest against the regime.
Opposition leader Tikhanovskaya writes Twitter that today’s police action shows that the Lukashenko regime is behaving “lawlessly”.
Evidence of human rights violations
After the presidential elections of 9 August, in which large-scale fraud was committed according to the opposition and the European Union, tens to hundreds of thousands of Belarusians took to the streets for months to demand the departure of President Lukashenko. Last winter, there were no more major protests as a result of the repression. However, the opposition hopes that the mass protest will flare up again this spring.
A group of mainly European countries, including the Netherlands, set up a human rights platform this week to collect evidence of police brutality and human rights violations in Belarus. The countries hope in the future to prosecute those responsible for the violence at the International Criminal Court or possibly a Belarusian tribunal.