Photos, Videos of Belarus Unrest Show Police Beating Election Protesters

The Belarusian capital Minsk was put into lockdown on Sunday night as thousands of protesters took to the streets to demonstrate against alleged electoral fraud by long-time autocratic President Alexander Lukashenko, only to be met by riot police armed with batons, shields, water cannons and tear gas.

Lukashenko, 65, is known as "Europe's last dictator," having retained power for nearly three decades after taking control of the newly independent country shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Sunday's supposed victory has secured the incumbent his sixth term as president.

The country's electoral commission claimed that Lukashenko won re-election in a landslide, despite popular unrest rising over his bungling of the COVID-19 pandemic, poor economic conditions and systemic human rights abuses. The commission said Lukashenko won 80 percent of the vote, citing preliminary results, according to Reuters.

His main challenger Svetlana Tikhanouskaya, a former English teacher, only won 9.9 percent of the vote, according to the election commission.

The apparent landslide followed weeks of harassment of Tikhanouskaya, her staff and supporters by Lukashenko and the authorities. The 37-year-old even went into hiding the day before the vote, after several of her senior staffers were arrested.

On Monday, Tikhanouskaya rejected the election commission's report. "I will believe my own eyes—the majority was for us," she told reporters in Minsk, The Guardian reported.

The president's opponents claim that the vote was rigged, and protesters took to the streets of the capital to challenge the strongman and demand reform. Photos and videos show that riot police took a heavy-handed approach to the demonstrators, beating and arresting unarmed marchers.

Wild video of ongoing clashes in Belarus between protesters and riot police. pic.twitter.com/KgThrFba4y

— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) August 9, 2020

At least one protester was reported killed on Sunday night. The young man died from a traumatic head injury after being hit by a police vehicle, the Vyasna human rights center in Minsk reported.

A video of the brutal episode captured by *that very Reuters photo* in Minsk #Belarus yesterday. A beaten protester collapses to the ground; crowd shouts to riot police officer "Let him go!", he issues a retort#BelarusPresidentialElection#StandWithBelarus pic.twitter.com/xiiKVu34Zn

— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) August 10, 2020

Vyansa said that at least 130 people—including protesters, independent election observers and journalists—were detained by police and security forces on Sunday in Minsk. More than 100 people were arrested in other cities, the center said.

Reports of pro-democracy protests across Belarus tonight and extraordinary scenes in Minsk in particular. It seems that, this time, the people of Belarus aren’t willing to settle for a rigged election. https://t.co/73X90NQwWe

— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) August 9, 2020

Ivan Naskevich, the head of the Belarusian Investigative Committee, said Monday that criminal cases have been launched into "mass disorders" and "attacks on law enforcement."

But videos, photos and reports from the scene showed police and security services attacking unarmed protesters with tear gas, stun grenades, water cannons and baton charges.

These are not fireworks but explosives and stun grenades used by riot police against peaceful protesters. pic.twitter.com/VAyCwiHuPO

— Franak Viačorka (@franakviacorka) August 9, 2020

The Associated Press said that after breaking up the large crowds, police chased smaller groups of demonstrators through the streets for several hours, arresting and beating those they caught up with.

Belarus, Minsk, election, protests, violence, Alexander Lukashenko
Belarus, Minsk, election, protests, violence, Alexander Lukashenko
Belarus, Minsk, election, protests, violence, Alexander Lukashenko
Belarus, Minsk, election, protests, violence, Alexander Lukashenko