Over 300 detained at renewed protests against Lukashenko

An estimated 30,000 people have been taken into police custody during weeks of protests in Belarus so far

Photo: AFP Opposition supporters carrying former white-red-white flags of Belarus parade through the streets during a rally against the Belarus presidential election results in Minsk, on December 13, 2020.

Security forces in Belarus cracked down on demonstrators on Sunday during widespread protests against embattled authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, dpa reported.

Videos circulated on the Telegram messaging platform - which is used to coordinate demonstrations - showing people in Minsk running away from hooded security forces, while others showed protesters being taken away and beaten by police.

More than 300 people were detained, officials said, putting the number of detentions on par with those of last Sunday. Human rights organisation Viasna published a list of 230 people taken into custody. An estimated 30,000 people have been taken into police custody during weeks of protests, which have been taking place since mid-August.

The latest weekly demonstration saw thousands gathering first in their neighbourhoods, and then forming larger groups. Protesters, also marching in other cities across the country, demanded the resignation of Lukashenko, who has been in power for more than 26 years, tolerating little dissent.

"This Sunday is the 18th Sunday in a row on which the people showed that they are ready to continue defending their rights," civil rights activist Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said.

Tikhanovskaya, 38, fled to neighbouring Lithuania after officially placing second in a disputed presidential election that the galvanized opposition claims was rigged, in favour of long-time Lukashenko.

On Sunday evening, the civil rights activist took part in a prayer for Belarus in Berlin's cathedral, ahead of a meeting with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Monday. Speaking at the event, she insisted that the people in her homeland wanted to continue their protest peacefully.

"The most important task of this visit is to stop violence and lawlessness against Belarusians," she said.

Late in the week, Tikhanovskaya will travel on to Brussels for talks with EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell and members of the EU Parliament, before receiving the European Parliament's prestigious Sakharov Human Rights Prize on Wednesday.

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