Belarus protests: Meet the 77-year-old great grandmother defying the regime

Video report by ITV News Senior International Correspondent John Irvine

It's nearly two months since the disputed election in Belarus which returned President Lukashenko to power, sparking protest and international condemnation.

On Friday, the EU agreed to impose sanctions on dozens of Belarusian officials - although not the president.

Meanwhile, the protests go on, and the contrast on the streets could not be starker. The demonstrators, mainly women, some of whom hold flowers, are confronted by armed police.

Now the opposition has discovered an unlikely standard-bearer, a 77-year-old great grandmother.

Footage shows burly Belarusian security men bundling away Nina, who is half their size and three times their age.

Despite what seems to be an unequal struggle, the regime's shock troops have met their match, and the opposition has found an icon of resistance.After Nina was released, ITV News met her at home, stitching together yet another red and white rebel flag.

Protests against the current regime are dominated by women. Credit: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

She said that this month is a record - six flags have been seized by the police."Who will protect our heirs, our youth? Who but me? The elderly must go to protest," Nina explained."When the police see us, they do not hit people that hard. They are ashamed, there's still some human dignity left in them."Nina is part of an uprising conceived and carried out in large part by women.

They have gained little so far; for all the miles marched through Minsk's broad avenues under the ominous watch of armed police.

"We don't have guns or sticks or anything in our hands. Only flowers and the lighting of our phones," a female protester told ITV News.

There could not be a greater contrast with the swaggering, gun-toting man they have vowed to overthrow.

Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko salutes during his inauguration ceremony at the Palace of the Independence in Minsk last week Credit: Andrei Stasevich/AP

Ahead of the disputed election, President Lukashenko dismissed the female leaders of the opponents as "poor things".

He was sworn back into power with one of them in jail and the other forced into exile.

Despite the fear of reprisal, those on the frontline continue to speak out.

"I risk now, just because I want my children to live in a safe country where the rights of people are respected," a second female protester said.

As for Nina, she'll be back on barricades this weekend.She said: "If we stay away from protests, if we do not join in the action against this fascist regime. It means that there will be no life for us or our children."

Lukanshenko and his henchmen believe they can tough it out. But come what may, they will never again underestimate the power of Belarusian women.