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Belarus students protest Lukashenko on return to class

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Belarus protest PHOTO: Reuters

Hundreds of Belarusian students marched through Minsk Tuesday on the first day of the academic year to protest against President Alexander Lukashenko after three weeks of rallies against his disputed re-election.

Riot police detained around 10 students who chanted “fascists” and “this is our city” while attempting to form a human chain in the centre of the former Soviet republic’s capital, an AFP journalist said.

Students from several universities in Minsk participated in the protests on Tuesday, which is celebrated throughout former Soviet countries as the first day of the new academic term.

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Belarusians have taken to the streets in large numbers to participate in unprecedented  protests that erupted after Lukashenko claimed a sixth term in a presidential election last month.

More than 100,000 people have flooded the streets of Minsk for three straight weekends to demand the resignation of the 66-year-old strongman who has ruled with an iron fist since 1994.

Lukashenko has dismissed calls to resign, brushed off the idea of holding new elections and instead detained members of the opposition and revoked the accreditation of journalists working for foreign news organisations.

His notorious security services have taken a less violent approach to policing massive streets demonstrations after initially detaining around 7,000 protesters during a violent crackdown on post-vote rallies.

Lukashenko this week discussed plans for a referendum on constitutional reforms in what appeared to be an attempt at compromise.

He has previously referred to protesters as “rats” and appeared in official videos released during protests carrying an assault rifle.

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