Dozens Detained in Belarus as Opposition Stages Scattered Marches 

Security forces in Belarus have detained dozens of people as opposition demonstrators staged scattered marches and rallies in Minsk and other cities to pressure strongman leader Alexander  Lukashenko to make political concessions. Human rights group Vyasna said that nearly 180 people were detained during the protests on December 13, with most of the arrests reported in Minsk. According to local news outlet Nasha Niva, more than 120 marches took places across the country, with numbers at each rally ranging from dozens to several hundred. Some protesters marched in outlying residential areas of Minsk, waving white-and-red flags, a symbol of the opposition, and chanting “Long live Belarus.” The demonstrations came as opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya was scheduled to appear at events in Germany, as part of her efforts to rally international support for Belarus’s beleaguered opposition. The country has been roiled by unprecedented political opposition since early August when Lukashenko was declared victor of a presidential election that opposition leaders said was flawed. Activists have defied often violent police tactics and organized weeks of demonstrations and rallies. Still, the only hints of concession that Lukashenko has shown are suggestions he has made about drafting a new constitution. In contrast to past weekend demonstration, Minsk authorities did not shutter the subway system on December 13, and no major Internet disruptions were reported. Many of Belarus’s opposition leaders have been arrested or forced to leave the country, including Tsikhanouskaya, who says she won the August election. Tsikhanouskaya, who now lives in exile in neighboring Lithuania, hailed protesters who had gathered “despite repressions, violence and cold. “They resist Lukashenko’s regime because the people of Belarus want to live in a democratic and free country,” she said in a post to Twitter. The United States, the European Union, and several other countries have refused to acknowledge Lukashenko as the winner of the vote. The European Union imposed sanctions on Lukashenko and his allies citing election rigging and a violent police crackdown.  

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