Belarus police disperse anti-Lukashenko protesters near Stalin-era execution site

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Police in Belarus Sunday dispersed protesters who had been marching from Minsk to a Stalin-era execution site in the latest of weeks of demonstrations against strongman Alexander Lukashenko’s disputed re-election.

An AFP journalist heard loud bangs and the sound of shots being fired and saw police chasing protesters in a field not far from the Kuropaty site, a wooded area on the outskirts of Minsk where thousands of people were executed during Stalin’s purges.

The last time a march to the execution site was violently dispersed was in the Soviet era in 1988 when authorities used tear gas.

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On Sunday, thousands of people hit the streets of Minsk in defiance of strongman Lukashenko’s latest threats to “take no prisoners.”

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Rights group Viasna said that 70 people had been detained, mostly in Minsk.

Tens of thousands have protested every Sunday in Belarus for nearly three months after longtime ruler Lukashenko claimed a landslide victory in an August presidential election.

Main opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya denounced the vote as a fraud and has been backed by Western leaders who refuse to recognize the result.