500 Arrested During Weekend Protests in Belarus

Police in Belarus arrested 500 protesters over the weekend, as demonstrations against President Alexander Lukashenko continued.Lukashenko, who has been in power for 26 years, claimed his sixth reelection in the Aug. 9 election. But many in the country view the outcome as illegitimate. He claimed 80% of the vote.The country’s Interior Ministry said 150 people were arrested Saturday and another 350 on Sunday during protests across 22 cities, according to The Associated Press.Dozens Arrested as Protests Against Lukashenko Continue in Belarus The protests in Minsk, Homel, and other cities came after Lukashenko, in power since 1994, was inaugurated on September 23 in a secretive ceremony Around 100,000 protesters took to the streets in the capital, Minsk.A human rights group said the crackdowns on protesters over the weekend were not as violent as previous clampdowns, during which police used tear gas, truncheons and rubber bullets to disperse crowds. Several protesters were reportedly killed.”Repressions get stuck when more than 100,000 people take to the streets,” said Ales Bialiatski, head of the Viasna Human Rights Center, according to AP. “The authorities’ scare tactics don’t work anymore.” Authorities recently began an investigation into members of the Coordination Council, which was created by the opposition and supports a peaceful transition of power. Alleged charges against members of the group include undermining of national security.Several have been arrested or forced to leave the country, according to reports.On Monday, Svetlana Alexievich, who won the 2015 Nobel Prize in literature, left for Germany. Another council member, Maxim Znak, was jailed earlier this month and has been on a hunger strike since Sept. 18.Both the United States and the European Union have said the election was not free nor fair, and many European countries have refused to recognize Lukashenko after his surprise inauguration earlier this week.

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