MINSK - Police used tear gas to break up an antigovernment protest in Belarus and forcefully detained dozens of demonstrators yesterday in the capital.
The authoritarian government had tried to thwart the protest by blocking access to Facebook, Twitter, and a major Russian social networking site used by the organizers. The government also deployed thousands of police and secret service agents in central Minsk as an additional deterrent.
But about 700 or 800 people gathered on a central square. Using a new tactic introduced by young activists this summer, they clapped their hands in unison to show their opposition to President Alexander Lukashenko.
Public discontent is swelling as Belarus experiences its worst financial crisis since the fall of the Soviet Union.
“The USSR has come back,’’ said Tatyana Segalskaya, a 30-year-old demonstrator. “It is dictatorship in the middle of Europe. People are detained for nothing. The worse the economic concerns are, the tougher repressions become.’’
Rights group Vesna said more than 200 demonstrators were detained in Minsk, while similar protests were held in at least six other cities.
Lukashenko, appearing earlier yesterday, warned that “an escalation of information intervention is under way’’ in Belarus as part of plans drawn up in “the capitals of separate countries’’ to bring about a popular revolution.
Moscow has been pushing for greater control over the Belarusian economy in exchange for loans to help Lukashenko’s government weather the financial turmoil.