Belarus elections take dark turn, police begin brutal protest crackdown

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A man is down on the ground while surrounded by riot police in Minsk. -Sergei Gapon/AFP

Belarus elections on Sunday have resulted in increased tensions between democratic opposition protestors and the Lukashenko regime which have finally boiled over with reports of a police crackdown occurring in the capital city of Minsk.

What began initially as a peaceful protest has turned into utter chaos and violence leaving multiple people severely injured.

On Twitter, multiple videos and photos have emerged from the Euromaidan Press and local journalists showing police firing rubber bullets into crowds of protesters as well as using water cannons to disperse the crowd.

There have also been reports of what appear to be a police vehicles ramming into protesters with ambulances subsequently appearing to pick up bodies lying on the ground. It remains unknown as to whether anyone has been killed as a result of the violence.

While tensions have increased over exit poll results showing Lukashenko with roughly 80% of the vote, final results will be available on Monday at the earliest. Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has reportedly polled around 7%.

It is true that the poll results appear dismal for Tikhanovskaya. That said, many critics have pointed out that the Lukashenko regime has a long history of electioneering to maintain a grip on power throughout the country.

According to an Al Jazeera report, the energy in Minsk is one of “anger and frustration,” with streets and squares “…full of people who are all very angry, calling the election a huge fraud.”

Although there have been multiple reports of violence at the hands of the police, the Belarus Interior Ministry has refused to acknowledge any injuries.

Chaos emerged in other Belarusian cities, including the city of Brest with reports of police firing tear gas at protesters.

Upon closing of the polls, Tikhanovskaya made a statement on the nefarious results, “I believe my eyes, and I see that the majority is with us,” adding “We have already won, because we have overcome our fear, our apathy and our indifference.”

It is apparent that the Lukashenko regime is here to stay for the time being. That said, much can change over the coming weeks and months as final election results are announced.

If Lukashenko were to win, as is predicted, protests may continue at a larger scale than we have seen thus far, further increasing tensions with potentiality of greater violence.

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