Protests erupted in Belarus, with hundreds taking to the streets after two leading opposition candidates Valery Tsepkalo and Viktor Babariko were excluded from the presidential race.
On 14 July, the Central Electoral Commission didn’t register Viktor Babaryko and Valery Tsepkalo as presidential candidates. The commission’s decision was followed by peaceful protests in Minsk, Grodno, Gomel and Brest and other cities.
Hundreds took to the streets clapping and chanting “Shame”, “Freedom”, “Belarusians are not afraid” and other slogans, while passing drivers honked their horns in support.
Police used loudspeakers to warn the rally participants about administrative responsibility for taking part in unsanctioned rallies. The rally grew violent after plainclothes officers and riot police started making detentions.
Several Belarusian and foreign media journalists covering unsanctioned rallies were briefly detained and released by police. Images posted on social media show brutal clashes between protesters and police.
The Belarusian Investigative Committee said on Wednesday that it has launched a criminal inquiry into “flagrant violations of public order” in Minsk and will be bringing rioting charges against the protesters.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs reported that more than 250 people were detained, including drivers and cyclists. According to human rights defenders, more than 280 people were detained.
Presidential elections in Belarus will take place on 9 August. Five people have been officially registered as presidential candidates, including incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko.