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Belarusians take to the streets in protest following Lukashenko’s ‘secret’ inauguration

Source: Meduza
EPA / Scanpix / LETA

On Wednesday, September 23, cities across Belarus saw mass demonstrations opposing the secret inauguration of Alexander Lukashenko. At around 7:00 p.m. local time, people started taking to the streets in Minsk, Brest, Vitebsk, Grodno, Soligorsk, and other cities. According to Interfax’s estimates, approximately five to seven thousand people were protesting throughout Minsk.

In Minsk, law enforcement officers began violently dispersing protests almost immediately. Protesters from different parts of the city began approaching the Minsk — Hero City obelisk in the downtown. Security officers blocked their movements and then began to disperse the crowd. They used water cannons and stun guns against protesters, and beat them with truncheons. In an attempt to get people to clear the area, the riot police shouted: “Leave, today is going to hurt!” 

Law enforcement officers near the Minsk — Hero City obelisk.
Water cannons in Minsk
Warning. The following video shows scenes of violence. Viewer discretion is advised.
Arrests near the Pushkinskaya Subway Station in Minsk on the evening of September 23, 2020
TUT.BY

Law enforcement officers made arrests in various districts across Minsk, detaining protesters everywhere from the area around October Square and the Yubileynaya Hotel in the city center, to Zaslavskaya Street in the city’s northwest, and Pritytskogo Street in the west. They detained protesters by beating them with truncheons. About an hour after the protests began, shots were heard near the Minsk — Hero City obelisk, reported photographer Anton Motolko and the Belarusian news outlet Tut.by, citing eyewitness accounts. Law enforcement began using water cannons near the obelisk once again, as well as in other parts of the capital.

A law enforcement officer sprayed protesters with pepper spray near the Nemiga Subway Station; many people mistook it for tear gas. Police officials from the Minsk Interior Ministry issued a statement maintaining that “police officers didn’t use tear gas and stun grenades.”

Warning. The following video shows scenes of violence.
Riot police using pepper spray against protesters in Minsk

On Pobediteley Avenue, a group of protesters barricaded themselves inside the Galereya Shopping Center; security guards closed one of the entrances to the building and refused to let law enforcement officers inside.

Photos of riot police dispersing protesters on Nemiga Street
Photos: Vadim Zamirovsky, Dmitry Brushko, Tut.by

People in tracksuits and black masks were also dispersing protesters in Minsk. Dressed in plainclothes without any identification markers, they used truncheons to beat cars that were passing by the Nemiga Subway Station, demanding that the drivers move along faster and stop honking in support of the protesters. They also threw people to the ground, beat them and arrested them. What’s more, they forbid journalists from filming them. 

Warning. The following video shows scenes of violence.
The arrest of a man who threw a bottle at an unidentified person in a balaclava on Nemiga Street
TUT.BY

Protesters on Nemiga Street blocked a police van carrying arrested demonstrators; law enforcement officers in black masks dispersed them with truncheons. Around 10:00 p.m. local time, the protesters blocked traffic on Nemiga Street, at which point people dressed in black appeared, and some of the demonstrators fled.

Protesters blocking Nemiga Street

Shots were heard at a protest rally in downtown Minsk. Several shots were fired on Nemiga Street, following the arrival of additional security forces. Presumably, the officers fired into the air, possibly using flash-bang rounds, Interfax reports. According to clarification from Tut.by, the shots were fired not far from the church near the “On Namiga” department store. 

Shots were also heard on Kalvariyskaya Street near the Pushkinskaya Subway Station, Tut.by reported, citing eyewitnesses. “I heard a shot, then the security forces dragged someone into the road and laid him down. They stood over him for about five minutes and sort of dragged [him] to a car. There was a lot of smoke from the shot,” an eyewitness said. Tut.by later clarified that the sound was from a car accident, not a gunshot. A few moments later, several loud bangs were heard near the Pushkinskaya Subway Station, which were taken for shots or explosions. The newspaper Nasha Niva then published a photo of casings from a less-lethal weapon, which were found in this area.

“A Nasha Niva reader picked up this casing on Pushkinskaya”

More than 150 people were arrested across Belarus — the majority were detained in Minsk, reports the Belarusian human rights center “Vyasna” (Spring). The number of people injured during the dispersal of the protests remains unknown. 

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