Rights group: 13 detained during rallies in Belarus

World

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — A human rights group said that 13 people were detained in Belarus on Sunday during the traditional weekend protests against President Alexander Lukashenko, who won his sixth term in office in a disputed election.

Local media reported that groups of people took part in small rallies scattered around Minsk, the capital, and in other Belarusian cities. Videos of the protests posted by independent news outlets showed protesters with with red and white flags marching through courtyards in residential areas of Minsk and chanting “Long live Belarus!” and “As long as we’re united, we’re invincible.”

The Viasna human rights center released names of 10 people that have been detained in Minsk and three more in other Belarusian cities.

Mass protests have gripped Belarus, an ex-Soviet nation of 9.5 million people, ever since official results from the Aug. 9 presidential election gave Lukashenko a landslide victory over his widely popular opponent, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. She and her supporters refused to recognize the result, saying the vote was riddled with fraud.

Authorities have cracked down hard on the largely peaceful demonstrations, the biggest of which attracted up to 200,000 people. Police have used stun grenades, tear gas and truncheons to disperse the rallies, and thousands of people have been detained and brutally beaten. Nevertheless, the protests have continued for almost five months.

The opposition’s Coordination Council, formed shortly after the election to push for a transition of power, issued a statement on Sunday thanking Belarusians for taking to the streets again during the last weekend of 2020.

“The Coordination Council is grateful to brave Belarusians that don’t stop despite intimidation and trumped-up accusations in order to draw nearer a life in Belarus that we dream of and deserve,” the statement read. “We know that Belarusians are going into the new year with a common dream and (we) are convinced that we can’t be stopped along the way.”

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