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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Police Clash With Rioters in Belarus

MINSK, Belarus -- Riot police battled with nearly 3,000 demonstrators in central Minsk on Thursday in a nationalist protest against the pro-Russian policies of President Alexander Lukashenko.

The clashes erupted when police tried to stop the crowd marching to the former Soviet republic's parliament. Witnesses said police beat some protesters and ambulances took the injured to the hospital. No casualty figures were immediately available.

"I saw a number of people who were badly beaten. At this point it's impossible to say how many," said Valery Buyvol, a leader of the Belarussian Popular Front.

The marchers, waving Belarus' nationalist red-and-white flag and chanting "Long Live Belarus" and anti-presidential slogans, had gathered in late afternoon outside the president's administrative building.

Buyvol said he was himself beaten with truncheons and police tried to put him in a vehicle, but fellow protestors pulled him out.

A militia officer at the scene said police stepped in because the gathering was illegal.

"We employed our forces because the action was against the law. The city authorities did not authorize this," he said.

Police did not immediately issue any figures on arrests, but Buyvol said about 200 people were arrested after the rally.

The marchers, organized by the radical youth group Party of Freedom, wanted legal proceedings dropped against two opposition leaders and the release of seven Ukrainians held after a big anti-Lukashenko protest in April.