Police use tear gas to disperse clapping protesters in Minsk
Police in the Belarusian capital of Minsk used tear gas on Sunday to break up a protest in which demonstrators clapped over an Independence Day speech by President Alexander Lukashenko, RIA Novosti reported.
The unusual act of dissent in this authoritarian former Soviet republic was part of a new wave of protests in which demonstrators gather in Minsk and other cities and simply clap.
The protests are organized via the internet and the Belarusian authorities closed down a number of social media sites prior to Lukashenko's speech.
Belarus has seen unprecedented economic and political turmoil in recent months, as increasingly frequent protests against the 17-year-old reign of he authoritarian Lukashenko have combined with a 36% devaluation of the national currency.
Lukashenko- who has never been elected in polls judged fair by Western observers - has jailed political opponents, including a rival presidential candidate. On Sunday, Lukashenko, dressed in a military uniform, told a crowd in Minsk that a plot was underway to bring about a "color revolution" similar to the previous revolts in other former Soviet states.
"They want to bring us to our knees," he declared. "This is not going to happen."