Belarusian authorities begin violent crackdown on opposition protesters, after presidential vote ends and suspicious exit polls are released
Following a hotly contested presidential election in Belarus, riot police have resorted to rubber bullets, flashbang grenades, and water hoses against opposition demonstrators trying to build road barricades using dumpsters and trash cans. A correspondent for the news website MBK Media reported that the authorities fired at least seven shots using non-lethal ammunition.
In downtown Minsk, on Niemiha Street, a police van drove into a crowd of protesters. Journalists say the collision was deliberate. At least two people were injured and taken to the hospital. According to Mediazona, the vehicle rammed the demonstrators after protesters used a car to block the road.
The television network Belsat reported earlier in the evening that roughly 2,000 protesters clashed with riot police near Prospekte Pobeditelei. MBK Media says the crowd size was closer to 5,000 people.
Arrests and violent dispersals of crowds have also been reported in other cities across Belarus, including Brest, Vitebsk, and Mogilev.
Throughout election day, Belarusians experienced rolling outages in Internet service. A suspiciously high 40 percent of voters cast early ballots in this year’s presidential race, leading to allegations that the contest has been rigged. After voting on Sunday ended, the government released official exit polls showing that long-time incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko (Alyaksandr Lukashenka) won an overwhelming 79.7 percent of all votes, with just 6.8 percent of votes going to Svetlana Tikhanovskaya (Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya), his main opposition rival.