Belarus police opened fire on protesters and detained over 1,000 people overnight Tuesday, the third night of unrest over accusations of electoral fraud in the country’s presidential race.
Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko won a sixth consecutive term as president on Sunday, sparking protests by supporters of his opponents. Lukashenko is the first and only president to rule over Belarus since the creation of the office in 1994.
Dissidents argue that the state-controlled Central Election Commission of Belarus, which gave Lukashenko 80 percent of the vote in a landslide victory despite massive support for his top opposition candidate, Svetlana Tikhanouskaya, falsified the electoral results. Tikhanouskaya has since fled Belarus for neighboring Lithuania out of fears for her children’s safety amid the turmoil.
Police opened fire on protesters in the city of Brest — a southwestern city on the Polish border — on Tuesday night, injuring one person, the Belarusian interior ministry said in statements on Wednesday. The ministry issued two statements on the incident, with the second amended to include a specific description of the weapons the protesters allegedly used to attack police forces.
“In Brest, a group of aggressively disposed people armed with iron bars attacked police officers. The group did not stop after warning shots were made into the air. To defend the lives and safety of the police, lethal weapons were shot to kill. One of the attackers was wounded,” the ministry’s second statement read.
“The protest rallies against Sunday’s election results spread to 25 Belarusian cities on Tuesday, with the most massive gatherings in the capital Minsk, as well as Brest, Mogilev, and Novopolotsk,” Belarusian interior ministry spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova told journalists. According to the ministry, police detained more than 1,000 people during Tuesday night’s protests.
“There were incidents of ‘open confrontation’ with the law enforcement and 21 officers became victims of eight hit-and-runs and numerous fire bottles attacks,” Chemodanova said. At least 51 protesters were also injured Tuesday night, according to the Belarus Health Ministry. One protester was killed on Monday night; government authorities claim that he died after an explosive device he was preparing to throw at police went off in his hand.
Belarusian authorities say they have opened seventeen criminal cases following alleged attacks on law enforcement by protesters. On Wednesday, the Belarusian interior ministry said over 6,000 people had been detained over the past three days of unrest.
The European Union (E.U.)’s foreign affairs minister Josep Borrell has condemned Belarus’s violent crackdown on protesters and called its election “neither free nor fair.” He says E.U. foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting this Friday to discuss the situation in Belarus and that the member bloc will consider reimposing sanctions “against those responsible for the observed violence, unjustified arrests, and falsification of election results” in Belarus, which is not an E.U. member.