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More than 300 protesters detained in Belarusian capital in 18th weekend of demonstrations

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Belarusian authorities detained more than 300 protesters in the capital Minsk on Sunday during the 18th weekend of demonstrations after an election, widely recognized as rigged, gave Belarus’ authoritarian leader another term,The Associated Press reported

The Viasna human rights group published the names of 215 people who were detained in Minsk and other cities that also had protests that drew thousands. The Belarusian Association of Journalists reported that at least four journalists were detained in Minsk and the city of Grodno.

The protesters organized in smaller groups throughout the city instead of having a central gathering in a strategy to make it more difficult for police to track down the demonstrations, according to the AP. 

Sunday’s demonstrations included people chanting, “We believe! We can! We will win!” and featured some in Santa Claus costumes and others wearing masks of President Alexander Lukashenko. 

Law enforcement responded with water cannons, armored vehicles and military trucks in the center of the city. Certain subway stations were shut down, and internet access was restricted, the AP reported. 

Belarus erupted into protests after the country’s authorities announced on Aug. 9 that Lukashenko won in a landslide to stay president for a sixth term. Lukashenko has remained in power since 1994 and has alleged that Western countries inflamed the protests. 

His main opponent Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who fled to Lithuania after the election, has declined to recognize Lukashenko as the winner of the election, alleging fraud. 

Police have attempted to stifle the mostly peaceful demonstrations that have gathered up to 200,000 people and previously have used stun grenades, tear gas and truncheons on the crowds. 

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet released a statement on Friday warning about the declining situation in Belarus, including mass arrests and the treatment of detainees. 

She called on authorities to release those unlawfully detained during the protests and to probe “all allegations of torture and other human rights violations, including the deaths of at least four persons in the context of the protests.”

“It is urgent that the government of Belarus puts an end to ongoing human rights violations,” she said.

Tags Alexander Lukashenko Belarus Belarus election demonstrations detainment Protests

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