Police in riot gear stormed a rally on Friday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck. Police in riot gear stormed a rally on Friday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck.
Riot-clad security forces used barbed wire to seal the capital’s central square.
“About 250 people have been arrested in various parts of the capital,” the interior ministry said in a statement, adding that those arrested carried flags and “aggressive” placards.
Oktyabrskaya Square in central Minsk was fenced with barbed wire fences behind it. Independence Square was also fenced.
The protesters were heading to the Independence Palace, the residence of President Lukashenko.
“Our soldiers rounded us up in various circles, people were selectively pulled out of the crowd and beaten,” an unidentified protester told Reuters.
Mr Lukashenko – who has been in power for 26 years – is facing a sharp rise in public anger after winning last month’s presidential election, which his opponents say was fraudulent. He denies the allegations.
Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen, quoted by Minsk as saying, said the internet was blocked and security forces were making it extremely difficult for protesters to gather.
However, he said tens of thousands had gathered in the center of the capital, albeit in different locations than originally planned.
An Al Jazeera cameraman was arrested shortly afterwards and almost dragged into a truck but escaped, Vaessen said.
“Masked police trucks are driving around the city at high speed, stopping and grabbing people from the road,” he said. “It is very clear that the strategy today is to restrain any other movement towards Sunday rally. “
On Saturday, at least 5,000 people protested in the city demanding the release of a jailed opposition leader in the latest wave of mass protests since the August 9th presidential election.
Meeting with Putin
Key elements of his opposition Belarus they were either imprisoned or forced to leave the country. Mr Lukashenko will visit Russia for talks with Putin on Monday as the two countries begin joint military exercises.
Vaesen He said Lukashenko’s meeting with Putin was crucial. “He wants to show that he has these protests under control, and the images of very large gatherings are not something he wants to see today.”
He said the government and the protesters were digging and did not want to compromise.
Belarus’s dilemma: Fighting Europe’s last dictatorship
“It’s a complete stalemate. Mr Lukashenko has repeatedly said he is unwilling to step down. People here are also reluctant to stop because they have started what they call a ‘Belarussian awakening’. After so many years, 26 years of dictatorship, they have reached the point where they can no longer accept it. “
Peter Zalmayev of the Eurasian Republic Initiative said the mass rallies every Sunday were for the purpose of ousting Lukashenko and his “iron rule”.
“The only goal of the protesters is to get rid of the man and do it in a spectacularly democratic way without any leader, with the leadership scattered, and with a real popular uprising like Belarus has never seen before,” Zalmayev told Al Jazeera.
He said the only reason Lukashenko “hung up” was because of the faith of his security forces.
“The big stranger is Vladimir Putin who sent contradictory messages. From what we have seen, he is reluctant to think of a victory over a street protest that would set a very unpleasant precedent for Russia and Putin’s rule,” he said. Zalmayev.
Al Jazeera and news agencies