Security forces in Belarus on Saturday cracked down on fresh protests against long-time leader Alexander Lukashenko, detaining more than 170 people and reportedly using force.
Images and video footage posted online showed police using violent tactics. For instance, officers clad in black could be seen pushing a man to the ground while women rushed to the scene to separate them.
The human rights centre Viasna said more than 170 people were detained during the protests in Minsk, which according to media reports were mostly smaller decentralized rallies rather than a big mass demonstration.
Security forces reportedly detained random people at bus stops, including several media representatives, according to a journalist association.
Nicholas Connolly, a correspondent for Deutsche Welle, was held for around five hours, the German broadcaster said late Saturday.
Meanwhile, exiled opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya called for negotiations with the authoritarian leadership under international mediation in order to find a “peaceful way out of the crisis in Belarus,” she wrote on Telegram.
She said more than 750,000 people had voted in favour of such negotiations on online voting platforms.
There have not been any larger anti-government protests in Belarus since security forces brutally cracked down on mass protests last year following the election on August 9, in which Lukashenko claimed victory despite allegations the vote was rigged.
On Thursday, several hundred people took to the streets for the fist time since winter on the so-called Freedom Day. Authorities said more than 200 people were detained at those demonstrations and investigations have been launched against people who honked in favour of the protests.