Tens of thousands of protesters marched through Minsk on Sunday calling for President Alexander Lukashenko to resign, as protests across Belarus entered their fifth week following disputed elections that left the longtime leader in power.
Shouting “go away” and “you’re a rat,” members of the crowd waved red and white opposition flags.
"I disagree with the declared election results, I support all the protesters, I am for freedom and democracy, I want to live in a happy and free state. And I will keep coming here until we retrieve our rights," one protester said.
Police and army troops cordoned off the center of Minsk, but it did not stop demonstrators from marching to the vicinity of the president’s residence, about three kilometers outside the city center.
"I'm here to express my civic stance against Lukashenko. For the rigged elections, for treating our citizens the way he does," Marina, another protester, said.
Using military vehicles and water cannons, as well as pepper gas, riot police and plain clothes officers wearing masks and wielding truncheons tried to disperse the demonstrators.
More than 200 protesters were detained throughout Belarus Sunday, including more than 100 in the capital, the Minsk-based Viasna Human Rights Center and local media reported.
Lukashenko, in power since 1994, claimed victory in elections August 9. Opposition parties, along with the United States and the European Union, say the poll was heavily rigged.
More than 7,000 protesters have been arrested, and widespread evidence of abuse and torture has been reported in the month of protests. At least four people are reported to have died during the demonstrations.
Belarus’ main opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has been in Lithuania with her children since the election for what she says is her own safety.
In an interview with VOA, Tsikhanouskaya said she is working to organize new elections despite Lukashenko’s refusal to do so.
“Our plan is absolutely clear. It's organization of new elections, fair and transparent,” she said.