Belarus Protests: Mass Beatings, Detentions as President Clings to Energy

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MINSK, Belarus — Accounts of violent beatings of protesters and brutal mass detentions mounted in Belarus on Thursday because the nation’s embattled president, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, deployed brute pressure to cling to energy.

Widespread protests in opposition to Mr. Lukashenko, an authoritarian who has dominated for 26 years, have gripped the Japanese European nation ever since he claimed victory Sunday in a presidential election that his opponents and worldwide governments broadly noticed as fraudulent.

The protests had been initially largely peaceable, however riot police and army forces responded with stun grenades and rubber bullets, and may very well be seen pummeling unarmed protesters with their boots and batons. Dozens of journalists had been among the many hundreds detained; those that had been launched reported fierce beatings and horrific situations in overcrowded detention facilities.

The scene outdoors a pretrial detention middle in Minsk on Thursday was one in all desperation and grief. Lots of of individuals gathered, as they’d for a lot of the week, in search of family members. On Wednesday, they’d swarmed a departing ambulance, searching for scraps of reports.

“We had 18 folks in a cell designed for simply 4,” mentioned Aleksandra V. Yurova, 31, who was detained after polls closed on Sunday. She described her cell as a room of about 90 sq. toes with a desk within the center and a rest room that didn’t flush. There was just one bottle of water to be refilled and utilized by all of the inmates.

“The situations had been simply horrible,” she mentioned.

After one night time in that cell, Ms. Yurova was launched, most certainly as a result of she had a small little one, she mentioned. Her accomplice was detained as effectively, and he or she had not heard from him since. On Wednesday, she got here to the jail to search out out what occurred to him.

“I don’t wish to stay right here anymore,” Ms. Yurova mentioned, describing how the expertise modified her.

The arrests and violence appeared geared at scaring folks off the streets. However protests in opposition to Mr. Lukashenko continued in Minsk, the capital, and throughout the nation on Thursday. Footage circulating on social media confirmed staff strolling off the job on the BelAZ truck manufacturing unit within the metropolis of Zhodzina, a crown jewel of Belarusian business, chanting the protest motion’s message to Mr. Lukashenko — “Depart!”

International journalists launched from detention described scenes of systematic beatings and abuse. The Russian unbiased information web site Znak.com printed an account by one in all its journalists, Nikita Telizhenko, who mentioned he spent 16 hours detained with scores of others who had been compelled to lie face down in swimming pools of blood, with some detainees at occasions mendacity on prime of one another.

“Essentially the most brutal beatings had been going down throughout: blows, screams, cries may very well be heard from in all places,” Mr. Telizhenko wrote. “I had the sense that a few of these detained had damaged bones — palms, legs, spines — as a result of with the tiniest little bit of motion they shouted in ache.”

The beatings continued inside a van when Mr. Telizhenko and others had been transferred to a special detention middle. He was finally launched after the Russian Embassy interceded on his behalf.

Different correspondents additionally printed harrowing accounts — noting that their standing as foreigners and journalists seemingly spared them the worst abuse. Stanislav Ivashkevich, a correspondent for the Polish-based, Belarus-focused TV channel Belsat, described detention in a three-person jail cell with 12 different folks.

“Over the course of two days we got one loaf of bread for the entire cell,” Mr. Ivashkevich wrote. “At one level we had been taken out and compelled to run a gauntlet of rubber batons.”

The Belarusian Affiliation of Journalists mentioned it is aware of of at the least 64 instances of journalists being detained since Sunday, and that at the least seven have been severely overwhelmed and injured.

One man died in custody, the Belarus authorities mentioned on Wednesday. Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations Excessive Commissioner for Human Rights, mentioned greater than 6,000 folks had been believed to have been detained.

These detained included “bystanders, in addition to minors, suggesting a pattern of huge arrests in clear violation of worldwide human rights requirements,” Ms. Bachelet mentioned in a press release. “Much more disturbing are the studies of ill-treatment throughout and after detention.”

There have been indicators that the beatings had been a part of a scientific effort to place down the protests. Belarus state tv on Wednesday confirmed footage of six younger folks it mentioned had been protesters, their palms tied and their faces bruised and bloody.

“Are we going to do a revolution once more?” an off-screen voice asks.

“By no means once more, ever,” a type of detained responds.

Ivan Nechepurenko reported from Minsk, Belarus. Anton Troianovski reported from Moscow.





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