MINSK -- Belarusian security forces detained more than 300 people across the country on December 6 in the latest of nearly four months of demonstrations calling on authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka to resign.
Thousands of people protested in Minsk and other cities, defying a ban on demonstrations by holding numerous smaller marches in residential areas.
It is the third Sunday during which the demonstrations are being held under the banner of March of Neighbors, a strategy adopted by the opposition as a way of decentralizing the protests and making it more difficult for police to round up activists.
The Minsk-based Vyasna (Spring) human rights center reported more than 300 detentions in several Minsk districts and other cities across the country, including Brest and Hrodna. Two journalists covering the demonstrations in Hrodna were held by police.
Most arrests were made in the capital, where several subway stations were briefly closed and at least two squares were cordoned off by security forces. Water cannons and other law enforcement equipment were set up in the city center ahead of the protests.
'Protest Has Become A Part Of Our Life'
Belarus has been hit by near-daily protests since Lukashenka claimed he won a sixth term in an August 9 presidential vote that the opposition and West say was rigged.
The opposition says Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya won the election and demand the strongman resign, the release of all political prisoners, and a new election.
“Protest has become a part of our life, as integral as work or time with family,” Tsikhanouskaya said in a statement ahead of the rally.
“Each march is a reminder that Belarusians will not surrender,” said Tsikhanouskaya, who left the country after the election under pressure from the authorities and is currently in exile in Lithuania.
Police have violently cracked down on protests, with the UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, saying on December 4 that the human rights situation in Belarus is deteriorating.
More than 27,000 people have been detained since the election, according to the UN. There have also been credible reports of torture and ill-treatment, and several people have died.
Meanwhile, much of the opposition leadership has been detained or forced into exile.
Since August, 373 journalists have been arrested, six of whom are currently detained.
The continued crackdown on the protests caused international outrage, while Russia has helped prop up its ally.
The West has refused to accept the election outcome, with the EU slapping sanctions on Lukashenka and dozens of top Belarusian officials.