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Police officers detain young demonstrators in Minsk
Police officers detain young anti-opposition protesters in MinskImage: BelaPan/AP/picture alliance

Police arrest dozens at Belarus rallies

March 25, 2021

Belarusian authorities have arrested dozens of protesters calling for the resignation of President Alexander Lukashenko. The arrests came on a holiday, celebrated by the opposition, dating back more than a century.


Over 50 protesters were arrested in Minsk, Belarus on Thursday during demonstrations against President Alexander Lukashenko. Military vehicles were sent into the city center to squash the scattered groups of protesters, with riot police using water cannons on demonstrators.

The demonstrators demanded the resignation of Lukashenko, who they believed rigged the presidential election last August against opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. Many of the protesters were carrying red-and-white flags, a symbol of opposition against Lukashenko.

The pro-opposition Nexta Telegram channel helped coordinate the demonstrations, telling anti-Lukashenko protesters to join flash mobs. Human rights group Viasna said more than 100 activists were arrested across the country on Thursday.

Protests coincide with pro-opposition holiday

The protests coincided with Freedom Day, an unofficial holiday in Belarus. On March 25, 1918, the Belarusian Democratic Republic (BDR) declared its independence from Russia, but this was quashed several months later by the Red Army.

The Belarusian opposition to Lukashenko celebrates March 25 every year to remember the BDR. Lukashenko, however, has called the BDR "a dismal page in our history."

Belarus: Protesters dance against Lukashenko

Belarus targets Polish minority for dissent

The protests come as the Belarusian government targets a group representing the country's Polish minority. Several top leaders of the Union of Poles in Belarus were arrested on Thursday for inciting social hatred.

On Wednesday, the head of the group, Andzelika Borys, was arrested for violating mass gathering rules. Poland has backed the Belarusian opposition amid the anti-Lukashenko demonstrations, with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki expressing his dismay over the arrests.

Lithuania offers protection from Lukashenko

Baltic states implement new sanctions on Belarus over crackdown

The EU Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia implemented new sanctions against Belarus on Thursday over the government's ongoing crackdown of protesters. The sanctions target over 100 Belarusian officials with travel bans.

So far, Belarusian authorities have convicted over 400 people for taking part in pro-opposition demonstrations. The next wave of protests is expected to take place on Saturday.

Lukashenko has served as Belarus' president since 1994. Human rights watchdog Freedom House has characterized Belarus under Lukashenko as "not free," describing the country as "an authoritarian state in which elections are openly orchestrated and civil liberties are tightly restricted." 

wd/rc (AP, AFP)


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