Belarus police detained at least 250 protesters as tens of thousands demonstrated in the capital Minsk in advance of talks between strongman Alexander Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Security forces dressed in riot gear used barbed wire to seal off the central square in the capital.
“Some 250 people were detained in various districts of the capital,” the interior ministry said in a statement, adding those arrested were carrying flags and “offensive” placards.
Oktyabrskaya Square in central Minsk was fenced off with barbed wire with armed law enforcement forces seen behind it. Independence Square was also fenced off.
Demonstrators were heading towards the Palace of Independence, President Lukashenko’s residence.
“Soldiers rounded us up in several circles, people were selectively pulled out of the crowd and beaten,” one unidentified demonstrator told Reuters news agency.
Lukashenko – in power for 26 years – is facing a groundswell of public anger after declaring a landslide win in last month’s presidential election that his opponents say was rigged. He denies the allegations.