The world woke up and saw what Belarus looked like on Saturday evening.
On March 25, Belarus’s unofficial Freedom Day, foreign journalists from Great Britain, France, Ukraine were detained during a protest rally in Minsk.
“Armed riot police and water cannon were deployed in cities across Belarus and the internet was shut down across the country on a day of protest and human rights marches. <…> There were sporadic outbreaks of violence as masked police closed down key roads and charged at marchers to stop crowds forming.”
“According to eyewitnesses, hundreds were arrested, sometimes violently. For example, a woman who was telling a journalist about the reasons for her anger suddenly found herself stricken to the ground. Like the woman, on this day all Belarusians wanted to say that they could not put up with economic difficulties any longer.”
“Hundreds of police officers were involved to prevent protesters from entering the central square of this post-Soviet country. Then, about a thousand people who were chanting ‘Shame!’ just moved in the direction of the city center. On their way they were dispersed.”
“It was an unusual sight in Minsk: About a thousand people gathered in the capital Saturday to protest the authoritarian government. Activists, some wrapped in the red-and-white flag of the opposition, shouted “Fascists!” at riot police.The rally was unsanctioned, and officials reportedly warned the demonstrators to stay home. But they came anyway and were met by policemen armed with shields and batons. Tanks and soldiers waited nearby.”
France24 journalis Gulliver Cragg was detained in Minsk office of the Belarusian Party of Greens along with the Ukrainian journalist Kristina Berdynskikh and Belsat TV journalist Ales Zaleuski.
“Reprisals are becoming more brutal in Belarus. Several hundred people who attempted to protest the tax on the unemployed and declining living standards have been detained. The protesters who chanted slogans against the country’s leadership were arrested and even beaten. There were ordinary passers-by about ten journalists among them.”
Belarus police against Belarusians: Brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters in Minsk (ENG video)
“Saturday’s crackdown was the culmination of the Belarusian authorities hardening their position on the protests. <…> It is unclear as yet how the crackdown on the protests will affect relations with Belarus’s neighbors. Lukashenko has sought to improve ties with the West against the backdrop of cooling relations with ex-Soviet master Russia.”
“More people were arrested on Sunday in further demonstrations in the capital, Minsk, and other cities <…> Defending the government, foreign ministry spokesman Dzmitry Mironchyk said the ‘actions of law enforcement agencies were completely appropriate’ on Saturday.”
“Lukashenko and law and order forces had repeatedly signalled they would take a hard line against protests planned for Saturday — the anniversary of the creation of the shortlived independent Belarusian People’s Republic in 1918, known locally as Freedom Day. Protesters waved the red-and-white flag of the republic, chanting slogans including ‘Shame’ and ‘Enough’ <…> The comments prepared the way for Saturday’s clampdown, which included what Amnesty called ‘authoritarian tactics’ of preventive detentions and arbitrary arrests.”