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Belarusian Pensioners Take To Minsk Streets After Hundreds Of Protesters Detained

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Pensioners Protest Against Lukashenka In Minsk
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WATCH: Pensioners Protest Against Lukashenka In Minsk

MINSK -- More than 1,000 demonstrators took part in a march in the Belarusian capital on November 2 to demand the resignation of Alyaksandr Lukashenka, a day after hundreds of people were detained by police during a similar protest against a disputed presidential election.

The demonstrators, including many pensioners, marched through the streets of Minsk, carrying the banned white-red-white flags that have become a symbol of the political opposition in Belarus.

Participants chanted slogans such as “Lukashenka! Tribunal!” and “Until victory, until the end!”

No detentions were reported during the retirees' regular Monday protest.

Lukashenka has been under pressure of daily demonstrations following a disputed presidential election nearly three months ago that the opposition says was rigged and the West has refused to accept.

On November 1, law enforcement officers used stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse thousands of demonstrators in Minsk and detained about 300 people, according to the Interior Ministry.

The Investigative Committee said 231 of those arrested were recognized as suspects in a criminal case that had been opened into "actions that grossly violate public order."

The protesters had marched from the center of the city to a Soviet-era execution site for rallies coinciding with an annual march that commemorates victims of Soviet-era killings buried at Kurapaty on the outskirts of Minsk.

"About 300 people were detained in Minsk and the Minsk region for breaking laws on mass gatherings," the ministry said on its Telegram channel.

Four journalists were among those detained on November 1, two of whom were “severely beaten,” Boris Goretsky of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, told RFE/RL’s Belarus Service.

It was the 12th consecutive Sunday of marches in Minsk held to keep the pressure on Lukashenka, who has orchestrated a massive crackdown and arrested thousands since authorities declared him the landslide winner of the August 9 election to give him a sixth consecutive term.

Most of the country’s opposition leaders have been arrested or forced to leave the country, including presidential candidate Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who has said the vote was rigged in Lukashenka's favor and considers herself the rightful winner.

She left Belarus for Lithuania after the vote amid threats to her and her family.

Belarusian Protesters Commemorate Victims Of Stalin
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Last week, Lukashenka tightened his grip on Belarus by partially closing its border to the west, replacing his interior minister, and signaling to security officers policing protests that they should intensify the crackdown on demonstrators.

In the November 1 protest, some motorists appeared to try to block the movement of paddy wagons intended to carry off detainees.

Armored vehicles equipped with machine guns were seen in Minsk along with water cannons and other anti-riot equipment.

Mobile phone coverage was said to be cut off in many areas as estimates suggested that dual marches had attracted tens of thousands of people.

The political situation in Belarus is now at an impasse, with the Moscow-backed Lukashenka refusing to resign and the opposition unable to force his ouster.

Tsikhanouskaya has urged a "national strike" since October 26 that has been met with security sweeps and more brutal moves against dissenters.

Lukashenka has repeatedly accused the opposition and critics of being foreign-backed puppets.

He has bolstered forces at Belarus's western borders and accused Poland and Baltic states of trying to destabilize Belarus.

With reporting by Reuters, dpa, and AP
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    RFE/RL's Belarus Service is one of the leading providers of news and analysis to Belarusian audiences in their own language. It is a bulwark against pervasive Russian propaganda and defies the government’s virtual monopoly on domestic broadcast media.

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