An early morning swoop by riot police in Belarus has broken up an unprecedented five-day demonstration against the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko. Some 200 opposition supporters have been arrested after officers surrounded October Square in the capital, Minsk.
The demonstrators had been camping out in freezing weather since Sunday’s poll, which has been condemned by the opposition and Western obsevers as flawed. Officials in the former Soviet state have dismissed complaints over the conduct of the elections and endorsed the results. Lukashenko claims his rule has saved Belarus from the chaos and hardship that have hit other ex-Soviet states. “We saw today how young people showed all their heroism,” said opposition leader Alexander Kozulin. “The authorities didn’t have enough patience. This is sad but it’s our history. This is life today in Belarus.” The other opposition leader, Alexander Milinkevich, spoke outside the jail where protestors are being held. “The authorities showed their beastly nature,” he said. “It played the democracy game for three days and, with this, democracy in Belarus has ended.” Despite the arrests overnight, the opposition says it will press ahead with plans for a mass rally in Minsk tomorrow.