Video footage was produced showing a lone protester in Belarus who faces a line of armed vehicles before he is shot down with a water cannon and arrested by the police.
The scene, reminiscent of the legendary Chinese protester facing a tank during the turmoil in Tiananmen Square, came about last night amid widespread clashes over the apparent re-election of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
He is known as Europe's "last dictator" as the Belarusian police arrested 3,000 people and at least one person died claiming that the election results had been manipulated.
The lone protester approaches the police amid the escalating protests
A water cannon is fired and sprayed the protesters away from the armed vehicles
Riot police are blocking an area after the elections in Belarus' presidential election were closed in Minsk on August 9, 2020
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko smiles as he arrives to vote at a polling station during the presidential election in Minsk, Belarus
Election officials said Monday that President Alexander Lukashenko had won his sixth consecutive term and received over 80% of the vote.
The protests are fueled by frustration over the country's deteriorating economy, years of political repression, and the authoritarian incumbent's carefree defense against the coronavirus.
Human rights groups said one person was killed – which authorities denied – and dozens were injured in police crackdown on protests following Sunday's presidential election.
People take part in a protest against the results of the Belarusian presidential election in 2020
Five candidates fought for the seat of the president, including the incumbent President Lukashenko
The country's central electoral commission said that Lukashenko, who has led Belarus for 26 years, received 80.23% of the vote on all ballots counted and his main opponent of the opposition, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, had only 9.9%.
Opposition supporters believe the election results have been rigged and plan to rally in Minsk for further protests on Monday evening.
"We do not recognize these results," Tsikhanouskaya, a former English teacher and political freshman, told reporters on Monday.
"Based on the data we got from the districts, we won and that is what we saw in polling stations," she said.
In polling stations, people stood in line to vote for Tsikhanouskaya. I believe my own eyes rather than the data from the central election commission. & # 39;
Thousands of people took to the streets in several Belarusian cities on Sunday evening protesting the early count that pointed to Lukashenko's landslide victory.
Protesters help paramedics move a wounded person to an ambulance after clashes with police in Minsk, Belarus, on Sunday, August 9, 2020
They faced rows of riot police in black uniforms who moved quickly to disperse the protesters, firing lightning grenades and beating them with batons.
The brutal crackdown followed a tense campaign that resulted in massive rallies against Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet nation with an iron fist for 26 years.
Lukashenko has not yet commented on the results or the protests and only said on Monday that "the people" should be the cornerstone of any policy, according to the state news agency Belta.
According to the human rights group Viasna, more than 200 demonstrators were arrested, dozen injured and one died as a result of clashes with police.
Police officers escort a man in clashes with opposition supporters after the presidential election shutdown in Minsk, Belarus on August 9, 2020
The Interior Ministry said Monday that no one was killed in the protests and called reports of one death "an absolute fake". According to official figures, 89 people were injured in the protests, including 39 police officers, and around 3,000 people were arrested.
On Monday morning, the Belarusian investigative committee opened a criminal investigation into mass riots and violence against police officers.
"What happened is terrible," Tsikhanouskaya told reporters on Sunday.
An AP journalist was beaten by the police and treated in a hospital.
At Minsk's No. 10 Hospital, an AP reporter saw a dozen ambulances treating protesters with fragmentation wounds, cuts from stun grenades and other injuries.
European officials urged the Belarusian authorities on Sunday to adhere to democratic standards and respect people's civil rights.
Police officers walk in clashes with opposition supporters after the presidential election shutdown in Minsk, Belarus, on Aug. 9, 2020
Riot police attempt to disperse protesters during a protest after polling stations were closed in the presidential election
The Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told the BNS news agency on Monday: "It is difficult, regrettably, to describe this election as transparent, democratic and free."
The Polish Foreign Ministry issued a statement Monday morning saying: "The harsh response from law enforcement agencies, the use of force against peaceful protesters and arbitrary arrests are unacceptable."
Russian President Vladimir Putin meanwhile congratulated Lukashenko on his victory on Monday, as did the President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. The results of the vote "show popular support" for Lukashenko's rule, Tokayev said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a Facebook post on Monday that it was "evident that not everyone in the country agrees with the announced preliminary election results."
"And as we know, any legitimacy arises exclusively from the public's trust," urged Minsk not to use violence and called for dialogue with the opposition.
Two prominent opposition challengers were denied seats on the ballot, but Tsikhanouskaya, the wife of an imprisoned opposition blogger, managed to unite opposition groups and draw tens of thousands to their campaign rallies, adding to growing anger over a stagnant economy and weariness with Lukashenko's autocratic rule triggered .
Lukashenko was defiant when he voted earlier in the day, warning that the opposition will encounter a harsh response.
"If you provoke, you'll get the same answer," he said. “Are you trying to overthrow the government, break something, wound something, insult something, and expect me or someone to kneel in front of you and kiss you and the sand you walked on? That will not happen. & # 39;
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, whose assessment of the elections is widely regarded as authoritative, was not asked to send observers.
Opposition supporters protest after polling stations close in the presidential election
Tsikhanouskaya had roamed the country tapping public frustration over a deteriorating economy and Lukashenko's boastful response to the pandemic.
Belarus, a country of 9.5 million people, has reported more than 68,500 coronavirus cases and 580 deaths, but critics have accused authorities of manipulating the numbers to downplay the death toll.
Lukashenko dismissed the virus as a "psychosis" and refused to take any action to stop it from spreading. A lockdown would have doomed the already weak economy.
He announced last month that he was infected but had no symptoms and was recovering quickly, ostensibly thanks to exercise.