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Belarusian police use mace on protesters & fire warning shot amid clashes at anti-Lukashenko rally in Brest (VIDEOS)

Belarusian police use mace on protesters & fire warning shot amid clashes at anti-Lukashenko rally in Brest (VIDEOS)
Police employed tear gas, fired a warning shot, and made arrests during a large protest against the Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, in the city of Brest on the border with Poland.

Thousands took to the streets across Belarus on Sunday, with the western city, just a stone's throw from the EU frontier, seeing the most heated action. 

Videos from the scene showed riot police in full gear spraying tear gas from a canister in the faces of protesters from point blank range as people locked hands to prevent the officers from making arrests.

Another clip caught what appears to be a warning shot fired in the air by one of the law enforcers, with demonstrators fleeing in fear.    

The protesters did manage to exert some counter pressure on the police, however, with officers seen in other footage fleeing from an advancing crowd that was chanting, “Go away!”

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova later confirmed the use of tear gas by the police. As for the warning shot, it was made in order to prevent the crowd from attacking law enforcement agents, she said, adding that a so-called flash-bang round, rather than live ammunition, had been used. 

Chemodanova also said that arrests had been made in Brest and elsewhere, but couldn’t yet confirm the exact numbers. 

There was also a massive rally in the Belarusian capital Minsk, in which tens of thousands participated. The protesters behaved peacefully, but the police nonetheless denied them access to the city’s main artery, Independence Avenue, and arrested some of the demonstrators. 

Belarus has been rocked by large-scale protests since the presidential election on August 9, which the opposition said was rigged by Lukashenko. The police have responded to people’s anger with mass arrests, detaining thousands of people over the past one-and-a-half months.  

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The law enforcement agents face accusations of using excessive force against demonstrators and of mistreating those in custody. Three deaths among the protesters have been officially confirmed, with hundreds, including police officers themselves, being injured.

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