Belarusian Interior Ministry Confirms Use Of 'Warning Shots' During Protest

The Belarusian Interior Ministry has confirmed security forces used “special means” on November 29 against protesters who continued to demand the resignation of authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka after a disputed presidential election.

Ministry spokeswoman Volha Chamadanava wrote on Telegram on November 30 that law enforcement officers fired warning shots to force the demonstrators to disperse, confirming reports by RFE/RL’s Belarus Service that law enforcement used tear gas and stun grenades against some demonstrators.

“Security officers had to use special means — a number of warning shots of stun rounds fired into the air and tear gas,” Chemodanova said, adding that in total 313 people were detained for violating legislation on holding public events.

The Minsk-based Vyasna (Spring) human rights center said that it calculated the number of the detained demonstrators across the country on November 29 at more than 420.

According to Vyasna, most of the people reported detained were taken into custody in Minsk, though there also were detentions in Brest, Hrodna, Baraulyany, and other towns and cities.

Demonstrations were reported in almost all districts of Minsk making it difficult to estimate how many people participated in the protests overall.

Unrecognized Reelection

Belarus has seen nearly continuous protests since a disputed presidential election on August 9 gave Lukashenka a sixth presidential term. The United States and the European Union have not recognized Lukashenka’s reelection.

Crisis In Belarus

Read our coverage as Belarusians take to the streets to demand the resignation of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and call for new elections after official results from the August 9 presidential poll gave Lukashenka a landslide victory.

The opposition, which believes candidate Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya was the real winner of the election, has been calling for Lukashenka’s resignation, the release of all political prisoners, and a new election.

Tsikhanouskaya, who left the country soon after the election under pressure from the authorities and is currently in exile in Lithuania, extended her support to the protesters.

“Every week the regime claims that the protests are subsiding,” she said on November 29 on Twitter. “Every week the regime sends its forces with tear gas, stun grenades to beat & scare the Belarusian people. Yet they gather every week to protest peacefully against Lukashenka’s regime.”

During a visit to a Minsk hospital on November 27, Lukashenka implied that he would resign if a new constitution is adopted.

“I will not work as president with you under the new constitution,” state media quoted him as saying.

Lukashenka has called several times for a new constitution, but the opposition has dismissed the statements as a bid to buy time and stay in power.

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