At least 1,050 persons, including celebs and journalists, were detained in Belarus during anti-Lukashenka protests, human rights centre Viasna reports on Monday afternoon.
According to Viasna’s information, only a few of the detainees were released.
Dozens were forced to face the wall for over nine hours in the inner courtyard of Savetski district police department of Minsk. They were guarded by armed OMON officers:
During Sunday’s People Power March, pro-government troops grabbed famous Belarusian athletes (2008 Olympic decathlon silver medalist Andrey Krauchanka and Belarus’ multiple kickboxing and Muay Thai champion Ivan Hanin. Volha Khizhynkova, the winner of 2008 Miss Belarus pageant, matematician Mikhail Karpuk, Viktar Fyanchuk, a well-known wolf biologist working in Belavezha Forest, were also detained.
Several media workers were taken to police stations: photoreporters Svyataslau Zorki and Viktar Talochka, as well as BelaPAN journalist Yan Auseyushkin and Belsat contributors Artsyom Lyava (Minsk) and Alyona Shabunya (Vitsebsk).
An upsurge of indignation has been caused by OMON riot police’s arresting Alyaksandr Zhdanovich aka Malyavanych, a host of kids’ TV show Kalykhanka (Lullaby). Shortly before the detention, the elderly man was walking along the line of policemen, holding a wooden cross and saying prayers. The actor is a passionate believer and volunteer in an Orthodox monastery. According to his relative, when Zhdanovich saw a senior OMON officer shouting at a woman, he politely asked him to stop, which ended in his being detained.
The arrests took place mainly in the capital city, but there were also detainees in Vitsebsk, Babruysk, Homiel, Hrodna, Mahiliou, Lyakhavichy, Pinsk, Byaroza. In Minsk, the participants in the March of People Power were barred from gathering in central protest spots (e.g. City Hall. Minsk Hero City Stele) and forming a big column. The troops involved block roads, divided and surrounded groups of protesters.
“Excessive force and police batons were widely used to attack unarmed people. Several dozen received injuries, as a result, and had to seek medical help. Non-lethal weapons were again employed, and at least one person was reportedly wounded by a rubber bullet,” Viasna’s statement reads.
The protest rallies in Belarus have been underway for three months. The major demands are Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s resignation, holding a free and fair election, releasing political prisoners, putting an end to police violence as well as state-run TV stations’ providing people with unbiased and reliable information. According to human rights activists’ estimates, more than 17,000 people have been detained in Belarus since the election day; many of them were beaten or tortured, some were raped. There are at least six death cases that are linked to the post-election protests. Hundreds are parties to criminal proceedings, the number of political prisoners exceeded 120.