Tensions soar in post-election Belarus
... amid reports of police firing at apartment windows & officers being run over
Four days after its presidential election, Belarus continues to be plagued by clashes between demonstrators and law enforcement, with the latter facing a mounting backlash over the crackdown.
The unrest showed little sign of abating on Wednesday, amid days of protests following incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko’s landslide victory in Sunday’s election, which the opposition insists was rigged.
In the capital of Minsk and other cities, demonstrators formed so-called ‘human solidarity chains’ to voice support for the opposition and those who have fallen victim to hamfisted police tactics. Many of those lining up were women.
Protesters in Minsk also attempted to block roads and lit flares.
Despite peaceful protests highlighting the fourth day of post-election turmoil, violence has hardly subsided. A video has emerged purporting to show riot police in Minsk opening fire on an apartment block as they chased protesters on the ground. Witnesses report that officers aimed their weapons at the building’s windows after residents sought to help the demonstrators to dodge arrest.
As night approached, clashes erupted with sounds of loud bangs, reportedly from concussion grenades, roaring through the city.
As tensions across the country soared, the authorities said on Wednesday that two traffic police officers were run over in Minsk and Baranovichy, a city of some 180,000 people in western Belarus.
A video of the Minsk incident has been released by the Belarusian Ministry of Internal Affairs. It shows a traffic officer hopping on one foot due his limp before being led away by his companion to receive first aid on the spot. The perpetrator, whose motives are unclear, fled the scene and was arrested later in the day. The officer was taken to hospital.
In a similar incident in Baranovichy, a driver attempted to flee, sparking a frantic car chase after he ran over an officer. Police shot one of the fleeing car's tires after the driver refused to pull over. However, when the traffic police arrived, the suspect had already fled on foot, leaving his vehicle behind. The hunt for the man is currently ongoing.
Two protesters have died and 6,000 have been detained since angry crowds took to the streets across Belarus after the results of Sunday’s election showed Lukashenko, who has led the country since 1994, winning 80 percent of the vote. Demonstrators have cried foul play, believing that his main rival and united opposition candidate, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, was robbed of victory.