MINSK - Belarusian police detained more than 1,000 people Sunday during protests across the country demanding the resignation of President Alexander Lukashenko and a new election following a disputed vote in August.
The Vyasna human rights group said most detentions were made in Minsk, where black-clad security forces used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse thousands of demonstrators. Two people were beaten by masked security officers inside a grocery store.
At least 18 journalists, including four contributors to RFE/RL's Belarus Service, were among those detained in Minsk and other cities, according to the Belarusian Association of Journalists.
The protesters carried the banned white-red-white flags that have become a symbol of the political opposition in Belarus and carried placards in commemoration of Raman Bandarenka, a 31-year-old anti-government supporter who died in a hospital Thursday after reportedly being badly beaten by masked security forces.
Demonstrators chanted, "I'm going out," the last known written words of Bandarenka, and other slogans such as, “Lukashenka! Tribunal!”
Mobile Internet was down and several subway stations in the center of the capital were closed, while several streets and squares were cordoned off by police.
Detentions were also reported during smaller demonstrations in Homel, Hrodna, Mahilyou, and elsewhere.
Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanouskaya, who has said the vote was rigged in Lukashenko's favor and considers herself the rightful winner, described the crackdown on protesters Sunday as devastating and called for international support for the demonstrators.
"We ask our allies to stand up for the Belarusian people and human rights. We need a humanitarian corridor for the injured, support for the media, international investigation of crimes," she wrote on Twitter.
Tikhanouskaya left Belarus for Lithuania after the vote amid threats to her and her family.
Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus for 26 years, has faced almost daily protests calling for his resignation since a presidential election August 9 that the opposition says was rigged and which the West has refused to accept.
Russia, meanwhile, has supported Lukashenko in the ongoing standoff.
Lukashenka vowed Friday not to hand over power and slammed his political opponents and demonstrators.
Lukashenko said his country should integrate with Russia and Moscow-led organizations to avoid what he called "color revolutions," a term often used to describe pro-Western political upheavals.
His remarks came as the European Union again condemned violent crackdowns against Belarusian protesters and threatened to impose more sanctions on Minsk following the death of Bandarenka.
Several protesters have been killed and thousands of people arrested since authorities declared Lukashenka the landslide winner of the vote.
There have also been credible reports of torture during a widening security crackdown.
Most of the country's opposition have been arrested or forced to leave the country.