Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko traveled to the Black Sea resort of Sochi Monday for talks with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Lukashenko was expected to seek critical support for his government from the Russian leader in what would be their first meeting since Lukashenko won re-election in disputed balloting last month.
Meanwhile, in Geneva, the United Nations' human rights chief said Monday that allegations of torture during the protests against Lukashenko’s re-election must be investigated.
At the opening of the U.N. Human Rights Council, Michelle Bachelet said, "Given their scale and number, all allegations of torture and other forms of ill-treatment by the security forces should be documented and investigated, with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice."
The council says it will hold an urgent debate on the violence.
At least 100,000 Belarusians took to the streets in the capital, Minsk, on Sunday in one of the biggest protests yet against President Lukashenko after he claimed victory in the election his opponents allege was rigged.
Throngs marched toward a government district, chanting "Long live Belarus," and "You're a rat," a common taunt against Lukashenko. Coming to a halt, protesters chanted “fascists” as hundreds of riot police with shields blocked a road.
Police said they detained more than 400 protesters in the capital, with arrests continuing into the evening.
Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that shots were fired into the air to keep protesters away from an area where the Belarusian leadership lives.
Russia has expressed support for Belarus, potentially restructuring its debt and offering to send in Russian riot police if needed.
With public outrage building against Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus for 26 years, Russia also said it would support him by sending paratroopers to the former Soviet bloc nation for "Slavic Brotherhood" joint drills.
Protesters say the August 9 presidential election was won by Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who is now in Lithuania. Key opposition leaders have since either been jailed or fled Belarus.
Lukashenko has rejected claims the election was rigged and contends that foreign powers are behind the protests.