Belarus: Images of troops in camouflage uniform confronting protesters emerge amid brutal arrests

Heavily armed troops in military uniforms were filmed shooting rubber bullets and flashbang grenades at a crowd of protesters blocking traffic in Minsk, as demonstrations against the presidential election continued across Belarus.

Protesters blocked Kalvariyskaya Street in western Minsk, a major thoroughfare near the First Ring Road on Monday. Riot police sent to disperse them were apparently reinforced by troops in camouflage-pattern uniforms armed with automatic weapons, who “opened fire” at demonstrators. 

As it turned out, the bullets were plastic riot rounds and the explosions were from flashbangs and smoke flares. Several people were injured, including journalist Natalia Lubnevskaya of Nasha Niva magazine, who was struck in the leg by a rubber bullet.

Pro-demonstrator social media accounts were quick to condemn “unidentified people in army uniforms without identification” who were “shooting at people.”

The uniformed men were quickly identified on social media, however, as members of the special anti-terrorist unit of the Belarusian Interior Ministry, known as ‘Almaz’ (Diamond). 

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Minsk and other cities in Belarus on Monday, protesting against the outcome of Sunday’s presidential election. The incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko officially won with almost 80 percent of the vote, but the united opposition led by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya called for the election to be annulled, alleging widespread fraud and irregularities.

Police have cracked down on Monday’s protests, using rubber bullets, flashbang grenades and tear gas in Minsk and elsewhere, according to local media reports. More than 3,000 people were arrested following clashes between police and pro-opposition protesters on Sunday.