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More than 700 arrests at Belarus protests

More than 700 protesters have been detained during fresh new mass protests against authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus, the government says.

Human rights organisation Viasna said several journalists were among those detained at protests on Sunday that drew tens of thousands to the streets around the country.

Official figures from the interior ministry in Minsk put the number at protesters nationwide at 11,000. The ministry said most of the people detained at the weekend remain in custody.

The security forces tried to disperse protesters at a mass rally in Minsk using stun grenades, tear gas and water cannon.

Images showed policemen hitting people with batons and chasing after them. There were numerous people injured.

It was the ninth consecutive weekend of protests since the disputed presidential election on August 9, in which Lukashenko claims he received 80 per cent of the vote, while the opposition says the true winner is exiled leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.

The EU has not recognised the election results. Lukashenko, 66, has led Belarus, a former Soviet republic between Russia and EU member state Poland, for more than a quarter of a century, tolerating little dissent.

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