More Than 300 Reported Detained In Belarus At Anti-Lukashenka Marches

By RFE/RL's Belarus Service

MINSK -- Authorities in Belarus have detained more than 300 protesters amid ongoing demonstrations aimed at ousting strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka from the presidency.

Most of the people reported detained were taken into custody in Minsk, but there also were detentions in Brest, Hrodno, Barauliany, and other cities, according to the Vyasna human rights group.

This is the second week in which the Belarus demonstrations have been held under the rubric March of Neighbors. The opposition has adopted the strategy as a way of decentralizing the protests and making it more difficult for police to round up activists.

"Neighbor for neighbor against dictatorship," read one protest banner in Minsk. Others expressed negative sentiments toward Lukashenka, who has ruled the country since 1994.

RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported that law enforcement used tear gas and stun grenades against some demonstrators. Mobile Internet services were not available in Minsk and the central metro stations were closed.

Demonstrations were reported in almost all districts of the capital.

One video posted on social media appeared to show police in Minsk dragging away an unconscious person near the Pushkin metro station.

It was unclear how many people participated in the demonstrations.

Belarus has seen nearly continuous protests since a disputed presidential election on August 9 gave Lukashenka a sixth presidential term. The United States and the European Union have not recognized Lukashenka’s reelection.

The opposition, which believes candidate Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya was the real winner of the election, has been calling for Lukashenka’s resignation, the release of all political prisoners, and a new presidential vote.

Tsikhanouskaya, who left the country soon after the August election under pressure from the authorities and is currently in exile in Lithuania, extended her support to the protesters.

"Every week the regime claims that the protests are subsiding," she said on November 29 on Twitter. "Every week the regime sends its forces with tear gas, stun grenades to beat & scare the Belarusian people. Yet they gather every week to protest peacefully against Lukashenka's regime."

The tweet included a video of people streaming through a park.

During a visit to a Minsk hospital on November 27, Lukashenka implied that he would resign if a new constitution was adopted.

“I will not work as president with you under the new constitution,” state media quoted him as saying.

Lukashenka has called several times for a new constitution, but the opposition has dismissed the statements as a bid to buy time and stay in power.

A former collective farm manager, Lukashenka, 66, has ruled Belarus since 1994.