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Police arrested over 100 opposition protesters during Tuesday's march in Belarus,
Police arrested over 100 opposition protesters during Tuesday's march in Belarus, in a crackdown set to further bolster the country's authoritarian image, an opposition leader said on Wednesday.

Alexander Milinkevich said opposition supporters had gathered in central Minsk for a peaceful protest, but were attacked by riot police.

"People were carrying flowers. The brutal suppression and beatings of demonstrators, journalists and even elderly people show that the authorities are afraid of us."

"Late last night, I received information that some 105 people were arrested, but the real figure could be higher," he said.

Thousands of protesters had attempted to gather on a central square to mark the anniversary of Belarus's short-lived independence, declared in 1918. Police closed off all roads leading to Yakub Kolas Square, and shut down nearby metro stations, shops and parking lots.

Authorities had only given protesters authorization to gather on Minsk's outskirts. However protesters, many waving European Union flags, defied the restriction, and flooded into the city center. Clashes occurred when police tried to disperse the crowd, herding them into nearby alleyways.

Authorities in the ex-Soviet state have come under severe international criticism for their clampdowns on dissent. Hardline leader Alexander Lukashenko is currently barred, along with other senior officials, from entering the United States and the European Union over his suppression of democratic freedoms.

Washington has also put sanctions against Belarus's state petrochemical company, which the country's Foreign Ministry yesterday called "economic blackmail, banned by international law."

The U.S. said on Tuesday it would reduce the number of its embassy staff in Belarus in line with Minsk's demands for equal diplomatic representation.

The U.S. State Department's spokesman said earlier this week that Belarus "has taken a path of confrontation and isolation rather than a path of engagement and democratic reform."


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