Dozens of journalists who have followed the protests against President Alexander Lukashenko have been arrested on Freedom Square in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, according to TV channel Belsat.
According to it, the police transported a number of journalists to a police station where they were banned from using mobile devices. According to Belsat, accredited foreign journalists and journalists of registered Belarusian media were released after a few hours.
Among the foreign journalists, journalists from the BBC, Reuters and Deutsche Welle, among others, came to the police station.
Paul Hansen, an award-winning photographer from the Swedish magazine Dagens Nyheter, was also arrested but later released. Hansen is currently in the company of the Swedish ambassador in Minsk, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said on Twitter.
- The Belarussian authorities must give an explanation for the arrest of the Swedish citizen, Linde says.
Hansen himself told Dagens Nyheter that he should leave the country on Friday morning. According to Hansen, the authorities had required reporters to show the contents of their phones, but these had refused.
Reporters had difficulty getting into the country
The Belarussian authorities have refused to register many opposition-minded media, nor have they recently granted accreditations to foreign journalists.
Both local and foreign journalists have also been arrested and beaten.
BTI has also applied for accreditation but has not received it. In Finland, Helsingin Sanomat photographer Kalle Koponen said that he had been turned away from the airport due to a lack of accreditation.
According to human rights organizations, the authorities' grip on Belarus has hardened again, with a total of more than a hundred people arrested during the evening.
Extensive protests in the country began after the presidential election in early August. The winner was Lukashenko, who had long ruled the country arbitrarily. Prior to the election, many opposition candidates were barred from running.
The result has been widely regarded as fraudulent and, for example, has not been recognized by the European Union. Lukashenko's challenger Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has fled the country.
The fraudulent result has caused the largest-described protest movement in the country’s modern history.
Russia ready to help "maintain order"
On Thursday, President Vladimir Putin said that Russia had formed a reserve of security forces, which could, if necessary, go out to help maintain order in Belarus. According to Putin, the auxiliary force will not be deployed unless the Belarusian "extremists" start a general looting and rioting. So far, according to Putin, there is no need to provide assistance.
Putin justified the possible intervention with the military alliance between Russia and Belarus.
According to Putin, precautionary measures have been taken at Lukashenko's request. Putin revealed the matter in an interview with state television channel Rossija 24, which was broadcast at short notice in the afternoon.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, for his part, called on Russia not to interfere in the affairs of Belarus. According to Stoltenberg, Belarus is a sovereign and independent state and no one should interfere in its affairs.