More than 700 people were arrested in violent protests in Minsk overnight Wednesday, bringing the total of arrests to over 6,700 in the five days since the re-election of longtime Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko. Two people have been killed in clashes, including a 25-year-old man who died in police custody Wednesday. On Thursday, hundreds of women wearing white and carrying flowers joined arms to form “solidarity chains” to demand a peaceful resolution and for all detained protesters to be released and footage appeared on social media of worker walkouts across the country.
The protests were sparked by Lukashenko’s alleged landslide win over opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who was also briefly detained Monday before fleeing to Lithuania, according to the BBC. the European Union has threatened sanctions against the country and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet condemned reports that police are using excessive force, including rubber bullets, water cannons, and stun grenades. “Reports suggest that more [than] approximately 6,000 people have been detained,” she said. “Including bystanders, as well as minors, suggesting a trend of massive arrests in clear violation of international human-rights standards.”
On Thursday, Russia’s foreign ministry said it was concerned that “outside forces” were at play to destabilize the country following the contested election.