During protests by new women against Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko, police arrested hundreds of people in Minsk on Saturday. The security forces stood in the way of the women and dragged them into emergency vehicles, as a journalist from AFP news agency noted.
About 2,000 women took part in the march entitled “Glitzermarsch”, and the opposition has called for renewed mass protests on Sunday.
The protesters in Minsk wore the red and white flags of the protest movement and glittering accessories. They shouted slogans like “Get rid of you and your riot police” or “We believe we can win”. “I will march to the end until we get the win because we are right,” said protester Irina, a 50-year-old programmer.
The police were tough on the protesters. Sometimes the officers ran out of room to make further arrests, so several women were released. Paramedics looked after some of the detainees. The arrests included riot police in black uniforms and balaclavas, as well as troops in khaki uniforms and plainclothes officers with masks.
Police spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova told AFP news agency that the number of arrests would not be announced until Sunday. The civil rights group Wiasna listed the names of 328 arrested women. Prominent 73-year-old activist Nina Baginskaya was also pushed into a minivan after police stole the flag and flowers she was carrying. A little later, Baginskaya was released from a police station.
The opposition coordination council spoke of “a new phase in the escalation of violence against peaceful protesters”. Opposition candidate Svetlana Tichanovskaya condemned in a video message the “arbitrary”, gross and massive arrest of “beautiful and brave women”. “They are demonstrating, although they are under constant threat and pressure,” said the opposition activist, who fled to Lithuania shortly after the presidential election.
Since the controversial presidential election on August 9, tens of thousands of Belarusians have taken to the streets against the president, who has ruled with an iron fist for 26 years. The largest gatherings take place on Sundays. Again this Sunday, the opposition called for massive protests in Minsk and other cities in the country.
The protesters accuse Lukashenko of electoral fraud and demand new elections. They are not deterred by the violent actions of the security forces.
Telegram channel Nexta publishes names of 1,000 police officers
Last weekend, the security forces in Minsk also cracked down on thousands of women demonstrating peacefully against Lukashenko. Video footage on the Internet showed masked police officers brutally pushing protesters into minibuses. The civil rights group Wiasna reported more than 40 arrests at the time.
Poland-based opposition network Telegram Nexta published a list on Saturday containing more than 1,000 names and ranks of Belarusian police officers who had committed misconduct in brutal crackdowns against government opponents. If the arrests of government critics continued, more names would be released, he said.
Reports of police brutality and torture of detainees had also brought the EU Parliament to the scene. He called for sanctions against Lukashenko and other Belarusian government officials. Opposition leader Tichanovskaya will meet in Brussels on Monday with EU foreign ministers and EU foreign affairs representative Josep Borrell. (AFP)