More than 100,000 people took to the streets of the Belarusian capital, Minsk, on Sunday against embattled President Alexander Lukashenko as exiled opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya called for a strike to force the pro-Russian leader to quit.
The march took place on the last day of an ultimatum set by the opposition for Lukashenko to resign after months of mass protests in the wake of August’s disputed presidential election.
“Today, the regime has once again shown Belarusians that violence is the only thing it is capable of,” Tikhanovskaya said on her Telegram channel.
“Therefore tomorrow, October 26, a national strike will begin.”
Police used stun grenades to disperse protesters and mass arrests were under way on Sunday, according to opposition Telegram channels.
Nearly 160 people were arrested in the early evening, human rights organisation Vesna said.
A dozen metro stations in the centre of Minsk were closed and mobile internet was restricted.
Tikhanovskaya this month gave President Lukashenko a deadline of two weeks to resign, halt violence and release political prisoners, warning he would otherwise face a crippling general strike.
Tikhanovskaya, a 38-year-old political newcomer, fled Belarus after claiming victory in an August presidential election that Lukashenko, 66, himself claimed to have carried for a sixth term.
She has been rallying support from European leaders and calling for new elections.