Security forces in Minsk detained more than 100 protesters on September 26 during a women’s march against Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who claimed victory in the country's presidential election more than a month ago amid reports of widespread fraud.
Riot police in balaclavas rounded up demonstrators and packed them into minibuses and police vans, according to RFE/RL's Belarus Service. A number of journalists were among them.
The detentions began soon after the women, many dressed in white and carrying red and white flowers and waving red-and-white opposition flags, gathered to march through the capital.
The march, which Minsk residents called the "people's inauguration" of Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, lasted about 2 and 1/2 hours.
The march took place three days after Lukashenka held a secretive inauguration in Minsk amid a police lockdown in the city and Internet blackout.
Lukashenka has directed a brutal postelection crackdown in response to protests, including thousands of arrests, beatings, and other mistreatment of peaceful protesters, and the expulsions of foreign journalists. He has denied accusations that the presidential election on August 9 was rigged.
Rallies were reported elsewhere in Belarus, including Hrodna. People were detained in Brest, Homel, and Zaslavl, the Vyasna rights group said.
Vyasna published a list of 106 people it said had been detained in Minsk during the march. Late in the day, a group of street musicians was detained after drawing a crowd while playing Soviet-era rock star Viktor Tsoi's "We Want Changes" in an underground passage, Vyasna said.
Among the women taken into custody was 73-year-old Nina Bahinskaya, a frail but resolute figure who has been a regular participant of the anti-Lukashenka protests.
A security officer in a balaclava grabbed the red-and-white flag from Bahinskaya’s hands before dragging her into a minibus. She was later released, but the flag was not returned.
WATCH: Dozens Arrested In Minsk
A group of women chanted "Our president is Sveta!" -- referring to opposition politician Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who they say won the vote -- before riot police dragged many of them into vans.
Tsikhanouskaya, who appeared as a guest on the BBC radio program Global Questions on September 26, spoke about the role women have played in the demonstrations.
“I’m really proud of all the Belarusian people who are in the demonstrations now but am extremely proud of the women,” she said.
They have no other choice than to participate in the demonstrations because they know that they are fighting for the future of their children, she said.
“They don’t want our children to be the slaves of this system, to be the slaves of this regime.”
Tsikhanouskaya, now in Lithuania, also commented on the secret inauguration, saying it revealed Lukashenka's weakness.
"He behaves as if he is afraid of his people, but if he is sure that he has won this election he wouldn’t be afraid of his nation," she said, adding that the inauguration doesn’t mean anything.
Crisis In Belarus
Read our ongoing coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka continues his brutal crackdown on NGOs, activists, and independent media following the August 2020 presidential election, widely seen as fraudulent.
Lukashenka was "illegitimate in the eyes of the Belarusian people and he didn’t become legitimate because of his inauguration -- absolutely not," she said on the BBC radio program.
Tsikhanouskaya called for Belarusians to demonstrate on September 27 for the “goal of new, honest elections and, as a result, an official, lawful inauguration.”
Tsikhanouskaya, who joined the presidential race at the last moment after her husband’s own bid was ended after he was jailed, said she won the August 9 poll with 60 to 70 percent of the vote.
The EU and United States have increased contacts with Tsikhanouskaya, a former English teacher and translator. Asked about the support the opposition has received from Western countries thus far, Tsikhanouskaya said she was not disappointed because she believes other countries are doing what they can, but she added: "Maybe they can be more brave in their decisions. They can be more pushy."