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Protests in Belarus Following Disputed Presidential Election Results

August 10, 2020, 03.11 PM

MINSK, - Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to challenge the early results from Sunday’s Belarusian presidential election.

The early poll results indicate that Belarus’s long-time authoritarian leader won a landslide victory earning him a sixth term in office.

According to a leading rights group, hundreds of demonstrators were detained as Belarusian police in full riot gear violently dispersed the crowd.

The brutal crackdown that began late Sunday and lasted through the night followed a tense campaign that saw massive rallies against President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet nation with an iron hand for 26 years.

Election officials declared that early returns show 65-year-old Lukashenko winning with more than 80 percent of the vote.

The main challenger, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a former English teacher and political novice, had about 8 percent.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya rejected the official claims, saying “I will believe my own eyes — the majority was for us.”

Thousands of her supporters quickly took to the streets of the capital to protest what they saw as official manipulations of the vote.

They faced rows of riot police in black uniforms who moved quickly to disperse the demonstrators, firing flash-bang grenades and beating them with truncheons.

After breaking up the big crowds, police relentlessly chased smaller groups of protesters across downtown Minsk for the next several hours.

Several other cities across the country saw similar crackdowns on protesters.

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova said that police efforts to restore order were continuing overnight, but wouldn't say how many people were detained.

Ales Bilyatsky of the Viasna human rights group told The Associated Press several hundred were detained and hundreds injured in the police crackdown.

“What has happened is awful,” Tsikhanouskaya told reporters Sunday.

An AP journalist was beaten by police and treated at a hospital.


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