Following the election that saw the authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko victorious in the polls, a massive protest have broken out across the country in protest of the election results.
Also, the police and armed forces of Belarus have taken to the streets using stun grenades, water cannons and rubber bullets to violently tame and crush the protesters who gathered in the capital of Minsk shortly after exit polls were announced on Sunday evening.
Demonstrators were pushed back by armored cars and water canons, as police sealed off some streets. Dozens of people were reported arrested. Photos from the scene showed bloodied protesters, and in one video a police truck appeared to drive over a demonstrator.
Videos posted on social media shows police with metal shields advancing on peaceful protesters in the city center and lobbing stun grenades.
The protest which began after Lukashenko was seen to be leading the major opposition with 79.7% of the vote against 6.8% going to Svetlana Tikhanovskaya who has been leading a groundswell movement to remove him.
Sunday’s vote was preceded by weeks of opposition rallies that have been the largest political protests in Belarus since the fall of the Soviet Union, and were seen as an unprecedented challenge to Lukashenko who has already been in power for 26 years and is often nicknamed “Europe’s Last Dictator”.
On Sunday, internet access in Belarus was partly shut down for most of the day, and by evening many social media platforms and messaging apps, including WhatsApp and Viber, were not working. The websites of some of Belarus’ largest independent media outlets were also unreachable. Belarus’ government had declined to give journalists from most foreign news organizations permission to work in the country ahead of the vote.
Tikhanovskaya, whom the opposition has unified behind, called on police to stop using violence against protesters.
“I’d like to ask the police and troops to remember that they are part of the people. I ask my voters to prevent provocations,” she said in an appeal through the news outlet tut.by. “I know that Belarusians tomorrow will already wake up in a new country, and I hope that tomorrow there will only be good news. Please stop the violence.”
The supporters of Lukashenko denied any fowl play in the polls, saying that the exit polls shows that a majority of Belarus citizens voted for the him.