Hundreds of women detained by Belarus police during protests in Minsk

WION Web Team New Delhi, India Sep 19, 2020, 10.24 PM(IST)

Law enforcement officers detain a woman during a rally to protest against the Belarus presidential election results in Minsk on September 19, 2020 Photograph:( AFP )

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The march was the latest in a series of all-women protests calling for the strongman to leave following his disputed victory in elections last month.

Riot Police in Belarus detained hundreds of women on Saturday as marched against Alexander Lukashenko and his government in Minsk. The women were dragged into vans, some of them were even lifted off their feet by the riot police. Viasna rights group released an online list of names of 217 women detained. The group said that the list was being updated. Police did not give any number of women detainees.

Around two thousand women took part in the "Sparkly March", wearing shiny accessories and carrying red-and-white flags of the protest movement.

The march was the latest in a series of all-women protests calling for the strongman to leave following his disputed victory in elections last month.

Lukashenko's opponent Svetlana Tikhanovskaya who has taken refuge in Lithuania, praised the "brave women of Belarus".

"They are marching despite being constantly menaced and put under pressure," she said in a statement she released ahead of the march.

The marchers chanted slogans such as "Get out, you and your riot police!" and "We believe we can win!"

One of the placards read: "Our protest has a woman's face," a reference to the title of a popular book by the Belarusian Nobel prize winner Svetlana Alexievich, who has backed the opposition cause.

Among those detained on Saturday was Nina Baginskaya, a 73-year-old activist who has become one of the best-known faces of the protest movement, known for her plucky antics and regularly celebrated with a chant of "Nina! Nina!". 

Police took away the flag and flowers she was carrying as they pushed her into a van but released her outside a police station shortly afterward.

Police detained so many protesters that they ran out of room in vans, releasing around 10 women.

The protest came as the opposition is due to hold mass demonstrations on Sunday and Tikhanovskaya will meet European Union foreign ministers and the bloc's diplomatic chief in Brussels on Monday.

The women's protests began in Belarus after Lukashenko's use of extreme violence against detained demonstrators.

Women began forming human chains and marching through Minsk and other cities wearing white clothes and carrying flowers in peaceful demonstrations that police initially allowed to go ahead.

Last weekend, police violently detained several dozen at a similar women's protest.

(With AFP inputs)