Riot police arrested more than 400 people as tens of thousands of anti-government protestors took to the streets of Minsk during the “March of Heroes” on Sunday. Dozens were immediately transferred to prison as rights groups complained of police brutality.
The rally was dedicated to Maria Kolesnikova, a jailed opposition leader, and other members of the democracy movement.
Belarus has been rocked by five weeks of protests after president Alexander Lukashenko, who has led the country since 1994, won a landslide victory in the August 9 election. The vote was denounced by EU officials, and forced Lukashenko to look to Moscow for support.
The opposition says that Lukashenko’s main challenger, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, was the rightful winner and wants new elections. Tikhanovskaya, who fled to Lithuania after the vote, won only about 10% to Lukashenko’s 80%, according to the election committee.
Human rights activists have repeatedly accused Belarusian riot police of brutally suppressing peaceful marches in the country. The government has denied the claims.
The interior ministry said that “around 250 people” had been detained on Saturday, for offenses like displaying the banned red-and-white flag and banners, “including an insulting one”.