December 19, 2010 / 9:43 PM / 9 years ago

Belarus riot police disperse crowds with batons

MINSK (Reuters) - Belarussian riot police Sunday waded into crowds of demonstrators protesting over the certain re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko, beating people with batons, a Reuters reporter at the scene said.

People fled in all directions as police moved in to disperse several thousands who had massed in Minsk’s Independence Square, alleging that Lukashenko, in power since 1994, had rigged his re-election.

Reuters reporter Lidia Kelly said she saw several people knocked to the ground in the police action, including an elderly woman.

Police pursued individuals into an underpass and down the main avenue leading away from the square.

Earlier, Vladimir Neklyayev, a 64-year-old poet and one of the main opposition candidates who ran against Lukashenko, was taken to hospital with a head injury after police broke up a small march he was leading.

Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Writing by Richard Balmforth; Editing by Mark Trevelyan

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