MINSK — Security forces in Belarus detained scores of people as opposition demonstrators staged scattered marches and rallies in Minsk and other cities on December 13 to pressure strongman leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka to make political concessions.
The human rights group Vyasna said that nearly 300 people were detained during the protests–with most of the arrests reported in Minsk. Officials said more than 300 people were detained.
Scores of marches took place across the country, with numbers at each rally ranging from dozens to several hundred. The dispersed protests are part of a recent strategy adopted by the opposition as a way of decentralizing the movement and making it more difficult for police to round up activists.
Some protesters marched in outlying residential areas of Minsk, waving white-and-red flags, a symbol of the opposition, and chanting “Long Live Belarus.”
The demonstrations came as opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya was in Berlin, ahead of a meeting with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on December 14.
Speaking at an event at Berlin’s cathedral, she said she would continue to rally international support for Belarus’ beleaguered opposition.
“The most important task of this visit is to stop violence and lawlessness against Belarusians,” she said.
From Germany, Tsikhanouskaya will travel to Brussels for talks with EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell and members of the EU Parliament, before receiving the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov Human Rights Prize on December 16.
Belarus has been roiled by unprecedented political opposition since early August when Lukashenka was declared victor of a presidential election that opposition leaders said was flawed.
Activists have defied often violent police tactics and organized weeks of demonstrations and rallies.
Still, the only hints of concession that Lukashenka has shown are suggestions he has made about drafting a new constitution.
Police have violently cracked down on the postelection protests, with more than 27,000 detentions, according to the UN. There have also been credible reports of torture and ill-treatment, and several people have died.
Crisis In Belarus
Read our coverage as Belarusians take to the streets to demand the resignation of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and call for new elections after official results from the August 9 presidential poll gave Lukashenka a landslide victory.
Many of Belarus’s opposition leaders have been arrested or forced to leave the country, including Tsikhanouskaya, who says she won the August election.
The United States, the European Union, and several other countries have refused to acknowledge Lukashenka as the winner of the vote.
The European Union imposed sanctions on Lukashenka and his allies citing election rigging and a violent police crackdown.