Belarus unrest: Police crack down on women's protest march

More than 300 were arrested at the protest. Credit: AP

Police in the capital of Belarus cracked down sharply at a women's protest march on Saturday, as demonstrators demanded the authoritarian president’s resignation.

More than 300 people were arrested - including an elderly woman who has become a symbol of the six weeks of protest that have swept through the country in the wake of last month's controversial presidential election.

Officials said President Alexander Lukashenko won a sixth term in office, with 80% support in the vote, but opponents and poll workers have said the results were rigged

More than 2,000 women took part in Saturday's march in Minsk.

Protesters are calling for the resignation of Belarus' authoritarian president. Credit: AP

The human rights group Viasna said more than 320 people were arrested in the action.

"There were so many people detained that lines formed at the prisoner transports," Viasna member Valentin Stepanovich told The Associated Press.

Among those detained was Nina Bahinskaya, a 73-year-old former geologist who has become a popular figure in the protests.

Many of the women in Saturday’s march chanted "We’re walking!" referring to when police told Bahinskaya that she was taking part in unauthorised protest and she replied "I’m taking a walk."

Police carry an injured woman away from the demonstrations. Credit: AP

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Lukashenko’s main opponent in the election, praised the women’s march in a video statement from Lithuania.

Ms Tsikhanouskaya was forced to flee the country after the election.

"They have frightened and put pressure on women for the second month, but despite this, Belarusians are continuing their peaceful protest and showing their amazing fortitude," she said.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is the main opposition candidate Credit: AP

Several top members of the Coordination Council - a group created to push for a new election - have been jailed.

Others have been forced to leave the country.

Maxim Znak, a leading member of the council, declared a hunger strike in prison on Friday.

Last month thousands of protesters were detained and some displayed deep bruises from police beatings. Other activists have gone missing after protests.

Protesters have been demanding Mr Lukashenko’s resignation Credit: Russian Presidential Press Service via AP

But police violence has not stopped the protests from growing to include strikes at major factories - places that had previously been a source of support for Lukashenko.

In a new strategy to stem the huge Sunday rallies, Belarusian authorities have warned it has tracked down parents who took their children to opposition demonstrations.

Last week Lukashenko visited Russia in a bid to secure more loans and political support from Moscow as protests continued against his rule.