Police in Belarus arrested at least 500 people on Sunday as thousands of protesters took to the streets again to demand new elections and the resignation of President Alexander Lukashenko.
At least nine journalists were detained, according to the Belarusian Association of Journalists.
The human rights group Viasna was quoted to have put the number of those arrested in the capital, Minsk, and elsewhere, between 548 and 830. They included well-known model and former Miss Belarus winner Olga Khizhinkova, and Olympic decathlete Andrei Kravchenko.
A heavy security force had been deployed since early Sunday in the capital as protesters held umbrellas and waved red-and-white flags that have become the symbol of the opposition. Police also deployed water cannon in various locations around the city.
Since Lukashenko claimed victory in a disputed August 9 election, with the country’s election commission saying he garnered 80% of the vote, protesters have regularly taken to the streets demanding his resignation and the release of political prisoners.
Lukashenko’s main opposition candidate, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, was forced to take asylum in Lithuania after fleeing Belarus for her safety in the wake of the government crackdown.
Despite widespread claims at home and abroad the vote was heavily rigged, Lukashenko has refused to relinquish power. He has been in office for 26 years.