Belarus secret police pressures demonstrators

Anti-government protests and police crack downs continued in the wake of a weekend election reinstalling authoritarian Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko to office. Some 250 hard-core demonstrators were camping in 15 tents pitched on the central October Square in the capital Minsk. Opposition leader Aleksandr Milinkevich spent the night in one of the tents, with outdoor temperatures dropping well below zero. Police so far have not interfered substantially with those in the encampment itself, but harassment of opposition supporters outside October Square - where Western media and EU ambassadors are maintaining a near-permanent presence - was continuing. Secret police officers in civilian clothes attacked a group of protestors exiting the square via an underground pedestrian walkway, using boots and fists in an attempt to tear away from the group a old-style red-white Belarusian flag banned by the Lukashenko regime. Media intimidation tactics by police continued Wednesday as well, with a KGB colonel giving a tour of the square to journalists, and pointing out snipers positioned on buildings overlooking the encampment, RFE/RL reported. Belarus Interior Minister Vladimir Naumov banned the delivery of food to the protestors, citing "hygenic grounds". An RFE/RL's Belarus Service correspondent says authorities turned off electricity on the square, leaving protesters in darkness and without music. Yet, he reports the atmosphere on the square remain cheerful.

Police have arrested more than 100 participants in the protests since it began Sunday evening, with all detentions taking place outside the October Square environs. Yaroslaw Jagiello, a Polish parliamentarian, a member of Poland's Law and Justice ruling party, arrested by Belarus KGB not far from the square on Tuesday, will be deported from Belarus because of his participation in an opposition demonstration, according to opposition Belarus media reports. Jagaillo had been in possession of a diplomatic passport but nevertheless was hauled in front of a Minsk court on public disorder and violation of public assembly law violation charges, the Interfax news agency reported.