Belarusian Police Detain Protesters

Posted June 29th, 2011 at 6:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Belarusian police violently dispersed a peaceful anti-government rally Wednesday in the capital Minsk.

Local rights activists said more than 100 people had been arrested, including journalists. Witnesses say they saw police beat demonstrators with batons.

Hundreds of people defied official warnings and torrential rain to protest the authoritarian regime of President Alexander Lukashenko and the country's worst financial crisis since its independence from the Soviet Union two decades ago.

The Belarus government has banned the weekly Internet-driven protests in Minsk and other cities. But as the country's economic crisis worsens, many Belarusians defy the ban and walk down central streets clapping hands in protest.

The latest Wednesday rally came as Russia cut off electricity supplies to Belarus, forcing the country to pay off its $21 million debt.

Belarus has accrued energy debts amid a severe economic crisis, which has prompted Minsk to seek a bailout from a Russian-led regional fund, as well as from the International Monetary Fund.

Mounting economic struggles have forced Belarus, a former Soviet state, to devalue its national currency.

Russian electricity exporter InterRAO said Wednesday it would restore power to its cash-strapped neighbor in the next few days.

Power imports from Russia cover about 10 percent of Belarus' electrical needs.