Masked men drag protesting Belarusian students off the streets

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Up to 30 people were detained for taking part in unsanctioned protests.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko gestures as he delivers a speech during a rally of his supporters near the Government House in Independence Square in Minsk, Belarus August 16, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko gestures as he delivers a speech during a rally of his supporters near the Government House in Independence Square in Minsk, Belarus August 16, 2020

(photo credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)

Masked security agents dragged students off the streets and bundled them into vans as new protests broke out against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Saturday on the fourth weekend since his disputed re-election.

Up to 30 people were detained for taking part in unsanctioned protests, Russian news agency TASS quoted the Minsk police as saying.

Draped in red-and-white opposition flags, students staged protests in several places in the capital, including outside the Minsk State Linguistic Institute where police had arrested five people on Friday, local media footage showed.

Elsewhere masked men dragged away students who had gathered at an eatery in Karl Marx Street in the center of Minsk, while some of the protesters shouted “tribunal!,” according to footage shown by news outlet TUT.BY.

Thousands of women later held a separate march through Minsk in the afternoon, shouting “hands off the children” as one of their slogans.

A former Soviet collective farm manager, Lukashenko has struggled to contain a wave of mass protests and strikes since he won a sixth term at an election last month that opponents say was rigged. He denies electoral fraud.

Lukashenko has previously dismissed the coronavirus pandemic as a “psychosis” that could be tackled by drinking vodka and taking saunas.

But on Saturday he appeared to chide the protesters for spreading the disease.

“We stagger through the streets, rubbing against each other,” he said at a televised government meeting.

“Where’s the social distancing and so on in that? We’re doing everything we can to delay the moment when we say goodbye to this disease. That’s unacceptable.”

Thousands took part in protests that coincided with the start of the school year on Tuesday. At the Minsk State Linguistic Institute, students sang “Do you hear the people sing,” a protest anthem from the musical “Les Miserables.”

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