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Riot police round up protesters in Belarus

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Belarusian opposition supporters gather in front of police line towards the Independence Palace, residence of the President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk, Belarus

Belarusian opposition supporters gather in front of police line towards the Independence Palace, residence of the President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk, Belarus

AP

Belarusian opposition supporters gather in front of police line towards the Independence Palace, residence of the President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk, Belarus

Belarusian authorities have resumed detaining protesters in the country's capital as university students took to the streets to demand the resignation of the country's authoritarian leader after an election the political opposition has denounced as rigged.

Hundreds of students gathered outside universities in different parts of Minsk and marched through the city centre to the national Education Ministry, continuing a fourth straight week of mass post-election protests in Belarus.

President Alexander Lukashenko has dismissed protest participants as Western puppets and bristled at demands for him to step down after 26 years in power or start a dialogue with the opposition.

Demonstrators protesting yesterday chanted "Go away!" referring to Mr Lukashenko, and held banners demanding freedom for political prisoners.

Police moved to break up the crowds and detained some of the protesters. Belarusian media reported that at least 18 students were detained. Minsk police confirmed there were detentions but did not say how many.

According to the Viasna human rights centre, several university professors were also detained, and riot police beat up many of the detained students.

Valentin Stefanovich, a human rights advocate with the Viasna centre, called the beatings "an untoward reaction of the authorities to a peaceful protest".

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"Students and universities in general are a highly explosive group," Mr Stefanovich said.

"The authorities are really scared of strikes starting in universities and are carrying out demonstrative intimidation acts."

After a ferocious crackdown on demonstrators in the first days after the August 9 election generated international outrage, the Belarusian government has avoided large-scale violence against demonstrators and sought to end the protests with threats and the selective jailing of activists. Several organisers of strikes at top industrial plants have been detained.

Yesterday, people started gathering near several large plants in support of the striking workers.

Belarusian prosecutors have opened a criminal probe against the opposition Co-ordination Council, accusing its members of undermining the country's security.

Last week, the country's courts handed 10-day jail sentences to two council members and summoned several others for questioning, including Svetlana Alexievich, the 2015 Nobel literature laureate. Another council member, Lilia Vlasova, was detained on Monday.


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