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Iran Press TV

Minsk protest turns violent; police use water cannons

Iran Press TV

Sunday, 04 October 2020 7:10 PM

Thousands of Belarusian protesters have defied government warnings and flocked to the streets in the country's capital of Minsk to demand the release of jailed activists of the opposition, forcing riot police to use water cannons to disperse the demonstrators.

The protesters — some 100,000 people by media estimates — marched in central Minsk on Sunday, waving white flags with a red stripe, which have become the symbol of the opposition.

The demonstration was the latest in a series of protests in Belarus since an August 9 election in which President Alexander Lukashenko gained a landslide victory. The opposition claimed the vote was rigged to hand him a re-election for the sixth term.

The demonstrators marched on detention centers in the capital on Sunday and chanted "Let them out" by the walls of Okrestina penitentiary, where some protesters and Lukashenko's opponents are claimed to be held.

Police were forced to use water cannons to scatter protesters and detain a number of rioters.

Belarus has been in turmoil since Lukashenko won the August 9 presidential election, with the opposition rejecting the official results and alleging voter fraud. The United States and the European Union, in particular, have repeated the allegation, rejecting Lukashenko's re-election.

Anti-government protests have been held in the country ever since and reports say hundreds have been arrested. Minsk has strongly rejected allegations of vote-rigging, with Lukashenko saying that Western governments are seeking to destabilize the ex-Soviet state.

In a video statement addressing the UN General Assembly late last month, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry accused Western states of meddling in the country's internal affairs and stressed that the move was meant to sow "chaos and anarchy" in the former Soviet republic.

On Friday, the United States and the European Union hit Belarus with sanctions over vote fraud accusations and orchestrating a crackdown on protesters. Minsk swiftly announced tit-for-tat "counter sanctions" against Brussels.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged to grant a loan of 1.5 billion dollars to Belarus, reaffirming support for the elected administration in the country.

Putin has already advised the West against interfering in Belarus' domestic affairs, and called for a peaceful resolution of the situation.

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