This article contains graphic descriptions and imagery. Discretion is advised.The Belarusian armed forces will use lethal force and "special equipment" against anti-government protesters, First Deputy Interior Minister Henadz Kazakevich said Monday afternoon.
"We have informed the public on the results of the mass events that were organized across the country October 11, as well as the measures taken to maintain public order," Kazakevich said in a video address
"That being said, the protests, the epicenter of which has mostly moved to Minsk, have become organized and extremely radical," the state police official continued.
"Consequently," said Kazakevich, "interior affairs servicemen and the interior troops will not leave the streets and, if necessary, will use special equipment and live ammunition."
Directed by Minister Yury Karayeu, the republic's Ministry of Internal Affairs is responsible for law enforcement and general security comes under the command of National Security Advisor Viktor Lukashenko, President Alexander Lukashenko's eldest son.
A mother-agency for the Belarusian Militia, the Presidential Guard and the state's Internal Troops – a paramilitary special forces division – the ministry has been working parallel to the State Security Committee (KGB) since the two split from the Belarusian NKVD in 1946.
The first reported case of ammunition being used against peaceful demonstrators in the recent wave of protests was on August 10 with the death of anti-government protester Aliaksandar Taraikouski the night after the contested general election.
With authorities first claiming the man died as an improvised explosive device detonated in his hands, footage filmed by an Associated Press reporter showed Taraikouski was shot in the upper abdomen while walking with his hands raised in front of a cordon.
Police did, however, acknowledge opening fire on demonstrators in the city of Brest (Bierascie) on the Belarusian tri-border with Poland and Ukraine, killing one, Radio Free Europe reported.
According to the media outlet, despite sporadic shootings, the minister's Monday statement is the first time Belarusian authorities have explicitly threatened to use lethal force against protesters, marking a significant escalation.
As Kazakevich's address was made during a nationwide elderly "grandmas against violence" march, the Monday protests became more active toward the evening, with pro-opposition Telegram channel Nexta TV posting footage of barricades being established by demonstrators in the capital.
At least 700 people have been detained on Monday, some being transported to the Akrescina (Okrestina) detention facility.
Monday night, a group of anonymous Belarusian activists called on demonstrators to establish roadblocks across the capital early Tuesday morning, "in order to help the city strike."
Clashes first broke out in Belarus on election night as official preliminary results gave President Alexander Lukashenko, in power since 1994, over 80% of the votes, with opposition candidate Tsichanouskaya scoring 10%. The opposition claimed Lukashenko received closer to 20% of the votes.