Belarusians angry with the outcome of Sunday’s presidential election, which the opposition denounced as rigged, have taken to streets for the third night in a row, facing off against police deployed en masse to quell the unrest.
Arrests have been reported as law enforcement moved to disperse protesters in the Belarusian capital, which has been gripped by violence since it was announced that the incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko was reelected with 80 percent of the vote.
Loud bangs have rung out in Serebrianka borough of Minsk, as law enforcement clashed with demonstrators who attempted to block the roads with makeshift barricades earlier in the day.
Similar scene played out at Kamennaya Gorka, in the outskirts of the city. Sounds of explosions were heard in the neighborhood as riot police scuffled with opposition supporters.
⚫По всей Беларуси сейчас идут столкновения протестующих с милицией. На видео Каменная горка, Минск. Мобильная связь с мест столкновений почти недоступна, поэтому большая часть видео с балконов домов. Протесты не видно, но если включить звук, хорошо слышно.Видео: NEXTA pic.twitter.com/CTfJQdXpuf
— moloko plus (@moloko_official) August 11, 2020
The protests have been marred by violence from both sides, but videos documenting local law enforcement’s crackdown on protesters have quickly gone viral.
One of the most chilling episodes captured on video showed a police officer apparently threatening to detonate a grenade in order to deter bystanders from interfering with the arrest of a young man.
Какой-то кошмар: два ОМОНовца избили 15-летнего парня, гранатой в трясущихся руках угрожали прохожим и звали подкрепление, протащили подростка по земле и сбежали с ним на подъехавшем бусе, снова угрожая людям гранатой.Достойные люди, патриоты pic.twitter.com/t2DSGathMi
— Чай з варэннем (@belteanews) August 11, 2020
As the Belarusian capital descended into chaos, there have been multiple reports of foreign and local journalists falling victim to the heavy-handed tactics by the law enforcement.
In an incident on Tuesday, AP news agency photographer Sergei Grits was reported to be attacked by a group of uniformed men without insignia, who were quoted threatening to break his camera. The apparent law enforcement officers also seized a memory stick from a local journalist as they swooped on the group.
#Belarus‘ian Association of Journalists report cases of police’s attacking media workers in #Minsk: Policeman threatened AP photographer Sergei Grits: “F**k off or I’ll break your camera”,seized memory card from NN reporter Nadzeya Buzhan @baj_by@OSCE_RFoM@pressfreedom@RSF_en
— Belsat in English (@Belsat_Eng) August 11, 2020
Protests have swept through other Belarusian cities as well. Footage from Brest, near the border with Poland, showed demonstrators attacking riot police using pepper spray.
Opposition supporters took to the streets after Lukashenko’s landslide was announced, claiming that his main rival and united opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya was robbed of victory. She officially received 10 percent of the vote.
The first two days of riots saw one person killed, dozens wounded and more than 5,000 arrested. Police have used tear gas, flash-bang grenades and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds, while the protestors were tossing stones and Molotov cocktails at law enforcement. There were also videos of officers being rammed by cars.
On Tuesday, Tikhanovskaya addressed her supporters from Lithuania – where she arrived overnight – asking them to “not to go out on to the squares… not to risk your lives.” She insisted that leaving Belarus was her own decision and she wasn’t pressured by authorities to do so. Lukashenko earlier claimed that the post-election protests were masterminded from abroad, blaming Poland, the UK and Czech Republic. Warsaw and Prague have denied the accusations.
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