(Reuters) – Masked security agents dragged students off the streets and bundled them into vans as new protests broke out against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Saturday on the fourth weekend since his disputed re-election.
FILE PHOTO: Students of Minsk State Linguistic University attend a rally in support of their detained fellows in Minsk, Belarus September 4, 2020. Tut.By/Handout via REUTERS
Up to 30 people were detained for taking part in unsanctioned protests, Russian news agency TASS quoted the Minsk police as saying.
Draped in red-and-white opposition flags, students staged protests in several places in the capital, including outside the Minsk State Linguistic Institute where police had arrested five people on Friday, local media footage showed.
Elsewhere masked men dragged away students who had gathered at an eatery in Karl Marx Street in the centre of Minsk, while some of the protesters shouted “tribunal!”, according to footage shown by news outlet TUT.BY.
Thousands of women later held a separate march through Minsk in the afternoon, shouting “hands off the children” as one of their slogans.
A former Soviet collective farm manager, Lukashenko has struggled to contain a wave of mass protests and strikes since he won a sixth term at an election last month that opponents say was rigged. He denies electoral fraud.
Lukashenko has previously dismissed the coronavirus pandemic as a “psychosis” that could be tackled by drinking vodka and taking saunas.
But on Saturday he appeared to chide the protesters for spreading the disease.
“We stagger through the streets, rubbing against each other,” he said at a televised government meeting.
“Where’s the social distancing and so on in that? We’re doing everything we can to delay the moment when we say goodbye to this disease. That’s unacceptable.”
Thousands took part in protests that coincided with the start of the school year on Tuesday. At the Minsk State Linguistic Institute, students sang “Do you hear the people sing”, a protest anthem from the musical “Les Miserables”.
Additional reporting by Polina Ivanova in Moscow; writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Angus MacSwan