Scene from Minsk: a representative of the security forces next to a demonstration participantPhoto: VASILY FEDOSENKO / REUTERS
Even before the presidential election, there had been massive protests in the ex-Soviet republic that had never been seen before. After the end of election Sunday in Belarus, many people took to the streets again, and the police's intervention was extremely brutal.
Tens of thousands of people protested against election fraud in the nationwide demonstrations after the presidential election. There were bloody clashes with the police on Monday night. There were many injured. In the capital Minsk, the security forces used water cannons, rubber bullets and stun grenades.
According to observers, up to 100,000 people are said to have participated in the demonstrations in the capital. Videos could be seen, for example, how protesters built barricades out of dumpsters. Crowds of people moved through the streets - also in other cities in the country.
Videos of how police officers brutally beat people were repeatedly published on social networks. Protesters also attacked police officers to prevent arrests. There were many pictures of people covered in blood.
The people's hopes now rest on the opposition candidate Svetlana Tichanovskaya. According to forecasts by state pollsters, the 37-year-old is said to have lost the election overshadowed by allegations of manipulation - but head of state Alexander Lukashenko won her.
Even hours after the polling stations closed, the election commission did not publish any initial official results. There was only talk of a victory by Lukashenko. The website of the election control was initially not available - like many other websites in Belarus.
Tichanowskaja did not want to admit defeat: "There can be no recognition of such an election result," said spokeswoman Anna Krasulina of the dpa news agency. It was to be expected that the state forecasts would assign Lukashenko around 80 percent of the vote. "That is far from any reality." There was no reaction from Lukashenko after the vote.
Call to renounce violence - on both sides
Instead, a crisis team met in the Interior Ministry. The authorities said the situation was under control, according to state media. How many people were arrested was not explained. The human rights organization Wesna initially spoke of more than 50 arrests in Minsk alone. Nationwide it should have been 120. That number should continue to rise.
Tichanovskaya called on the security forces to refrain from using force during the night. "I want to remind the police and the military that they are part of the people," she said, according to her campaign staff. She appealed to her followers to refrain from provocations. "I know that the people of Belarus will wake up in a new country tomorrow," said Tichanovskaya.
Security forces and demonstrators face each other in MinskPhoto: VASILY FEDOSENKO / REUTERS
In individual places there were also the first victory celebrations for the opposition candidate. The people called on the uniformed men to bow to the will of the electorate and join the people. In individual villages, the police were barely able to resist the crowds, reported opposition-related portals on the Internet, which temporarily did not work nationwide.
Partial results see the challenger ahead
It was initially not clear when the official election results would be available. Individual local election commissions appeared in front of the crowds that evening and announced results that Lukashenko had suffered a heavy defeat. In part, Tichanovskaya came to between 80 and 90 percent of the vote.
Lukashenko, who is considered the "last dictator in Europe", had threatened the use of the military to maintain his power. The death penalty is still being carried out in Belarus.
Tichanowskaja's goal in the election campaign was to win the vote, to release all political prisoners as president and then to call free elections. She is running for her husband Sergei Tichanowski. Like the former bank boss Viktor Babariko, the blogger, who is critical of the government, is in custody for allegations that are considered to be politically staged.Icon: The mirror
jok / dpa