Fri, 02 Oct 2020

MINSK -- Belarus witnessed a third night of postelection protests on August 11 after top presidential challenger Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya left for Lithuania amid a widening government crackdown on the opposition.

Riot police fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades to disperse protesters in the capital, Minsk, where livestreamed video and social media showed people being detained by police at multiple locations.

RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported authorities were enforcing a de facto curfew, detaining people walking on the streets, stopping cars and detaining some drivers, and limiting public transportation. Police wielding shields and batons also attacked people, journalists, and cars honking horns.

Security forces sought to prevent people gathering in central squares and near administrative buildings. Several protesters were detained at the Pushkin subway station, which is expected to become a center of protest as people leave flowers and white ribbons to honor a man who died there on August 10.

Demonstrations and clashes with police were also reported in several towns across the Eastern European country.

The protests appeared to be smaller than on previous nights when tens of thousands of people braved a harsh crackdown to challenge the results of what the opposition says was a rigged August 9 election extending President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's 26-year rule.

Observers said the lower turnout may reflect the decentralized nature of the protests, part of a strategy of action at multiple locations in the capital to spread out security forces. Internet service has also been down, depriving protesters of information about where to congregate.

The harsh crackdown - with more than 5,000 people detained, some 200 hospitalized, and one dead since the election - came after the Central Election Commission gave Lukashenka a landslide victory with more than 80 percent of the vote while the official tally for his main rival, Tsikhanouskaya, was less than 10 percent.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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