Belarus detains anti-Lukashenko former presidential candidate

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

An opposition politician who stood against long-time Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko in the controversial 2020 presidential election has been detained, his team said.

Andrei Dmitriev, 41, is a campaigner and vocal critic of the Belarusian president, who currently co-chairs the anti-Lukashenko Tell the Truth party. He was detained in the capital Minsk on Wednesday, according to a message posted on his Facebook page.

The reason for his custody was not yet known, it added.

Belarus authorities have not yet commented on the detention.

Lukashenko, the country’s first and only president since the office was established in 1994, claimed victory in the 2020 election, which was marred by allegations of voter fraud and repression of opposition forces.

Upon announcing his victory over leading opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, hundreds of thousands of Belarusians took to the streets in protest, urging Lukashenko to step aside.

Dmitriev came fourth in the election with 1.2% of votes cast, the official results showed.

Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, violently suppressed the protests and has since used draconian means to silence domestic political opposition.

Rights groups estimate there are about 1,500 political prisoners in Belarus — ranked as Europe’s worst authoritarian regime — as a result of the crackdown.