More than 300 people were detained in the Belarusian capital on Sunday, where crowds of people took to the streets for the 18th consecutive weekend demanding that the country’s authoritarian leader resign.
Thousands of people took part in dozens of small rallies scattered all over Minsk – a new tactic the opposition employed instead of one large gathering to make it harder for the security forces to target the protesters.
Demonstrators chanted: “We believe! We can! We will win!”
Several people wore Santa Claus costumes and masks depicting President Alexander Lukashenko, who won a sixth term in office in an election widely seen as rigged.
One banner read: “Give Belarusians a gift: go away.”
Police in Minsk said they had detained more than 300 people.
The Viasna human rights group released the names of 215 people detained in Minsk and other cities, where rallies also took place.
Mass protests have rocked Belarus, a former Soviet republic in eastern Europe, since official results from the August 9 presidential election gave Mr Lukashenko a landslide victory over his widely popular opponent, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.
She and her supporters refused to recognise the result, saying the vote was riddled with fraud.
Authorities have cracked down hard on the largely peaceful demonstrations, the biggest of which attracted up to 200,000 people.
Police used stun grenades, tear gas and truncheons to disperse the rallies.
On Sunday, water cannons, armoured vehicles and military trucks were seen in the centre of Minsk. Several underground stations were closed and internet access was restricted.
At least four journalists have been detained in Minsk and the western city of Grodno, according to the Belarusian Association of Journalists.
Nina Bahinskaya, a 73-year-old protester whose defiance has made her a popular figure in the protests, was also among those detained, according to Viasna.
The continued crackdown on the protests has elicited international outrage.
Earlier this year, the European Union imposed sanctions on Mr Lukashenko and several dozen officials over their role in the security crackdown launched after the contested election.
On Friday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement that the situation with human rights in Belarus was getting worse.
Ms Bachelet pointed to reports of mass arrests, the beating of detainees and the use of force in dispersing peaceful demonstrations.
“It is urgent that the government of Belarus puts an end to ongoing human rights violations,” Ms Bachelet said.
She urged Belarusian authorities to release those who had been unlawfully detained during protests, stop clamping down on the demonstrations and investigate “all allegations of torture and other human rights violations, including the deaths of at least four persons in the context of the protests”.
Meanwhile, protesters said they were not discouraged by the crackdown.
“The protest will not fade until Lukashenko leaves,” Maksim Borovets, one of those rallying in Minsk on Sunday, said.
“The intensified repressions did not stop (it). They merely changed the forms of the fight.”