Belarus protests: Police admit using live rounds in clashes with demonstrators | The Independent

Published by INDEPENDENT.CO.UK

Belarusian authorities have for the first time admitted to using live rounds in clashes with protesters.

A statement released by the interior ministry on Wednesday said police opened fire on demonstrators in the western city of Bretsk - claiming they were armed with metal bars.

Overnight Tuesday to Wednesday saw Belarus witness a third episode of violent clashes following Sunday's disputed presidential elections.

According to the ministry, more than 1,000 were arrested overnight, taking the total to at least 4,000.

The health ministry reported at least 50 new hospitalisations.

At least some of the arrested are being held in shocking conditions - with one video from a police station in Minsk depicting concentration- camp-style scenes and dozens lying face down on the floor in an open courtyard.

Amid an informational blackout - authorities switched off most of the internet early on Tuesday evening - isolated reports suggested the regime had resolved to turn up the terror dial.

Most of Tuesday night's clashes were centred in the working-class suburbs of Minsk, but there were sporadic exchanges in towns and cities across the country too.

Police targeted unarmed demonstrators using stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets.

On Tuesday they were also seen targeting children - in Minsk a 15-year-old boy was arrested with a grenade held close to his head. An order also seemed to be given out to specifically target journalists, with scores beaten up and disappearing.

The local independent journalist union reported a total of 17 cases of violent assault.

Their honking in support of the demonstrators has been an obvious source of irritation for the security forces.

In Hrodna, western Belarus, a military vehicle collided with a car carrying a 5 year old girl.

Alexander Lukashenko, the self-styled dictator who has ruled Belarus since 1994, is facing a fight to stay in power following a scarcely credible declared landslide election win.

On Tuesday, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, his rival, and who many believe actually won Sunday's election, left Belarus after what appeared to be direct threats to her family.