Updated at 14:48,20-09-2021

Belarus: dozens of peaceful female protesters thrown into vans by riot police

Tthe Guardian

Belarus: dozens of peaceful female protesters thrown into vans by riot police
Police officers block protesters during an opposition rally in Minsk on Saturday protesting against the presidential election results. Photograph: Misha Friedman/AP
Rally in Minsk against disputed re-election of Lukashenko was attended by thousands

Belarusian riot police detained several dozen women demonstrators and threw them into vans, as thousands took to the streets of the capital to protest against police violence and electoral fraud.

Before a massive protest expected on Sunday, columns of female protesters gathered in central Minsk for a peaceful women’s protest. Some beat saucepans with ladles and others chanted “Bring back our Masha”, referring to opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova by her diminutive name.

Kolesnikova, 38, was jailed this week after she resisted forced expulsion by ripping up her passport.

Belarus: dozens of peaceful female protesters thrown into vans by riot police
Opposition activist Nina Baginskaya, 73, tries to remove the mask of a riot police officer during a rally in Minsk on 12 September. Photograph: TUT.BY/AFP/Getty Images

But scuffles broke out in Freedom Square in central Minsk as men in black masks sought to detain some women protesters and they pushed back, footage broadcast by Belsat TV channel and Tut.by, a Belarusian independent outlet, showed.

Another video showed riot police officers roughly throwing female protesters into police vans.

The Viasna rights group said 30 protesters had been detained.

The spokeswoman for the interior ministry, Olga Chemodanova, told AFP that “women had been detained” but could not say how many or provide other details.

Belsat, a Warsaw-based opposition television channel, said on Telegram that two of its journalists covering the protest had also been detained.

Unprecedented demonstrations broke out in Belarus after strongman Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet state for 26 years, claimed to have defeated opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and won re-election with 80% of the vote on 9 August.

On Monday, Lukashenko is to hold talks with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, in Sochi, with the two due to discuss plans to further integrate their countries.