A Belarusian human rights group says security forces have detained dozens of people during protests calling on strongman Alexander Lukashenko to step down.
The Vyasna rights group said on December 20 that at least 42 people had been detained in the capital, Minsk, and the cities of Barysau, Homel, Hrodna, and Salihorsk.
Marches and rallies were reported in several districts of Minsk, accordng to RFE/RL’s Belarus Service, with many carrying the opposition’s red-and-white flag or banners.
Smaller protests were also held in other towns and cities across Belarus. Belarus has been roiled by nearly daily protests since early August when Lukashenko was declared victor of a presidential election that opposition leaders said was flawed. FILE – Law enforcement officers detain two men as opposition supporters rally to protest against police violence and the Belarus presidential election results in Minsk, Nov. 29, 2020.Police have violently cracked down on the postelection protests, with more than 27,000 detentions, according to the United Nations. There have also been credible reports of torture and ill-treatment, and several people have died. Many of Belarus’s opposition leaders have been arrested or forced to leave the country, while Lukashenko, who has ruled the country with an iron fist for almost three decades, has refused to negotiate with the opposition.
The United States, the European Union, and several other countries have refused to acknowledge Lukashenko as the winner of the vote, and imposed sanctions on Lukashenko and his allies, citing election rigging and the police crackdown.
Crowd numbers at protests in Minsk and elsewhere have dropped amid fatigue, repression, and the cold weather. Protests organizers have also switched tactics, calling for smaller gatherings to evade arrest and stretch the riot police.
Small marches and rallies were also reported on December 19 in Minsk and elsewhere, including the western city of Hrodna.