Protests grip Belarus after disputed election results

President Lukashenko wins about 80% of the vote, according official exit polls

Protests erupted across Belarus late Sunday after preliminary results showed a landslide election victory for longtime President Alexander Lukashenko, news wires reported.  Official exit polls published by state-run news agency Belta put Lukashenko ahead with about 80% of the vote, and his main rival opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya at about 7%.

In the capital, Minsk, live feeds from Radio Free Europe showed riot police using tear gas and stun grenades to disperse protesters. Hundreds of people were detained, according to the rights groups.

Tikhanovskaya, 37, said in a news conference late Sunday that she did not agree with the results. Her campaign maintained that she had won in dozens of polling stations in Minsk at that stage. Monitoring organization Golos said it counted more than a million ballots and, according to its calculations, Tikhanovskaya won 80% of the vote.

Final results are due to be announced later on Monday.

The night before the election, Tikhanovskaya's campaign said she fled her apartment and went into hiding due to safety concerns after police detained several of its senior staffers, CNN reported. Her adviser, Veronika Tsepkalo, fled Belarus for Moscow for safety reasons. Tikhanovskaya's campaign manager Maria Kolesnikova was taken to a police station for questioning on the eve of the vote. A day before that, campaign manager Maria Moroz was briefly detained.

Most independent observers were barred from monitoring the election. Dozens of independent observers were detained on Saturday and early Sunday, according to the "Honest people" and "Right to choose" initiatives. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said in July it would not be sending observers to Belarus as it hadn't been invited by the country's authorities.

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