Violent protests erupted in Minsk on Sunday night after Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenko won a contested presidential election over the weekend, Radio Free Europe (RFE) reported on Monday.
Voting for Belarus’ contentious presidential election concluded on August 9. After exit polls showed that Lukashenko — the incumbent president of Belarus who has ruled over the country for 26 years — had won nearly 80 percent of the vote on Sunday, over 1,000 citizens gathered in the capital, Minsk, to protest the election results. The protests quickly turned violent as state security forces descended on the capital to quell the unrest. Police reportedly used flash grenades, tear gas, and water cannons to disperse crowds and crack down on protesters.
The Vyasna Human Rights Center in Minsk reported that a male protester died in Sunday night’s unrest, but he was not identified. Vyasna said the man died from a traumatic head injury after he was struck by a police vehicle.
Interior Ministry spokeswoman Volha Chamadanava dismissed Vyasna’s report as “fake,” RFE reported. “Nobody died [during the violence]! We would like to emphasize that the information carried by some websites is absolutely fake,” she said.
“In all, about 3,000 people were detained across the country, including about 1,000 people detained in Minsk. More than 50 civilians and 39 law enforcement officers were injured during the clashes, some of whom are currently in hospitals,” Chamadanava said on Monday.
According to Ukraine’s UNIAN information agency, rallies opposing the election results were documented not just in the capital but across the country in cities and towns including, “Baranovichi, Brest, Kobyin, Pinsk, Lida, Grodno, Maladzyechna, Mogilev, Vitebsk, and Babruysk.”
Lukashenko’s main opposition candidate, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, said she refuses to accept the official election results, which she claims were “rigged” according to RFE. Belarus state agency Belta reported the Belarus Central Election Commission (TsVK)’s results on Monday, which said that Lukashenko had secured 80.23 percent of the vote, while Tsikhanouskaya received 9.9 percent of the vote.
“We don’t agree with (election results), we have absolutely opposite information,” Tsikhanouskaya — whose opposition rallies gathered tens of thousands of people during the campaign — said on Monday, Euronews reported. “We are gathering proofs of falsifications. We have people who are officially ready to confirm falsifications at poll stations. So we are starting to actively work on this and right now I’m going to the Central Election Commission to say that we don’t accept results of the elections.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping both congratulated Lukashenko on his controversial election win over the weekend.
“I hope that your state activity will help enhance mutually beneficial Russian-Belarusian relations across the board,” Putin said in a letter to the Belarusian leader. The two heads of state had experienced strained relations in the build-up to Sunday’s vote, with Lukashenko accusing the Kremlin of attempting to interfere in Belarus’ election.
In his congratulatory message to Lukashenko, Xi said he “highly values the development of China-Belarus ties,” Chinese Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily reported Monday.
“Xi said he stands ready to work with President Lukashenko to jointly push forward China-Belarus comprehensive strategic partnership and expand mutually-beneficial cooperation between the two countries in various fields, so as to create new benefits for the two countries and peoples,” the report stated.