Security forces in the Belarusian capital have fired warning shots and begun detaining participants on Sunday in the latest anti-government protest fueled by a disputed presidential election 12 weeks ago.
Thousands of demonstrators were taking part in parallel Minsk marches on November 1 as part of almost daily protests and ongoing demands for Alyaksandr Lukashenko's resignation and a new vote.
Columns of security trucks and buses to hold detainees could be seen around the city as the columns marched toward a well-known monument to Soviet-era repression victims outside the capital.
But soon, law enforcement were targeting groups of protesters with flash-bang grenades, warning shots fired into the air, and with tear gas and batons while trying to disperse the crowds.
Some motorists appeared to be trying to block the movement of vehicles intended to carry off detainees.
One day earlier, police arrested dozens as hundreds of women marched through Minsk to keep the pressure on Lukashenko, who has orchestrated a massive crackdown and arrested thousands since authorities declared him the winner of an August 9 election to give him a sixth consecutive term.
Most of the country’s opposition leaders have been arrested or forced to leave the country, including presidential candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who has said the vote was rigged in Lukashenk's favor and considers herself the rightful winner. She left Belarus for Lithuania after the vote amid threats to her and her family.
Tsikhanouskaya has urged a "national strike" since October 26 that has been met with security sweeps and more brutal moves against dissenters.
The opposition had set a deadline of midnight on October 25 for Lukashenko — who has been president for 26 years — to leave.
Lukashenko responded with another show of power, and later met with his new security chiefs on October 30 and threatened "harsh measures” against protesters.
The Vyashna rights organization said about 40 people were detained in Minsk, Hrodna, and other Belarusian cities on October 31.
The November 1 rallies coincide with an annual march that commemorates victims of Soviet-era killings with victims buried at Kurapaty, on the outskirts of Minsk.
Cell phone coverage was said to be cut off in many areas as estimates suggested dual marches had attracted tens of thousands of people.
Belarus partially closed all its land borders to foreigners overnight on October 31-November 1 in a move that prompted speculation the restrictions are politically motivated.
The country's State Border Committee said the border restrictions were to “prevent the spread of infection caused by COVID-19."
Lukashenko has repeatedly accused the opposition and critics of being foreign-backed puppets.
He has bolstered forces at Belarus's western borders, and accused Poland and the Baltic states of trying to destabilize Belarus.
Belarus has also expelled or turned away many foreign correspondents, in addition to jailing some journalists.
Lukashenko has repeatedly turned to Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom he has sometimes clashed over the implementation of a two-decade-old agreement on a joint state, for support since the latest unrest began.