merlin_175562406_5e16a753-5d1d-400c-8471-df5e74b8f650-superJumbo

Belarus police violently detain women protesters

Ahead of 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.

But scuffles broke out in Minsk’s central Freedom Square as men in black face 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 percent of the vote on August 9.

On Monday, Lukashenko is to hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, with the two set to discuss plans to further integrate their countries.