Expatica news

Belarus police beat, detain 30 opposition protesters

Minsk — Belarusian police on Wednesday beat opposition protesters and detained 30 of them during a demonstration marking the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of opposition members, an AFP journalist witnessed.

Around 50 people gathered at October Square in Minsk holding portraits of opposition figure Viktor Gonchar and businessman Anatoly Krasovsky, who vanished on September 16, 1999.

Anti-riot police surrounded the protesters and pushed them out of the square, hitting them before detaining about 30 of them, including Social Democratic Party chief Nikolai Statkevich.

Former lawmaker Sergei Skrebets and several militants from a youth organisation were also held, the journalist witnessed.

The protest crackdown came as strongman President Alexander Lukashenko seeks closer ties with the European Union and the United States.

Lukashenko has ruled Belarus in an authoritarian fashion since 1994 and was once famously dubbed "Europe’s last dictator" by Washington.

The Belarusian president visited EU member Lithuania earlier on Wednesday where he announced that he wanted to forge a new strategic partnership with the 27-member bloc.

The visit was the first made by Lukashenko to an EU state following the inking in May of the partnership accord.

The EU lifted a travel ban on Lukashenko last October.