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Provocateurs blend into the crowd during Minsk protests, says journalist

They insult crack police officers and then run back, according to the earlier detained Russian journalist

MINSK, August 13./TASS/. Provocateurs are operating in protests in Minsk to incite conflicts between protesters and law enforcement officers. They insult crack police officers and then blend back into the crowd, Russian journalist Semyon Pegov, the founder of WarGonzo project, told Belarusian ONT TV channel on Thursday.

"I was standing between the crack police and protesters, the distance between them was about 50 meters," Pegov said in an interview, uploaded to the Telegram channel of ONT. "I was taking a GoPro selfie to show both sides and describe objectively what is going on," he said.

"I saw people of a certain kind who are called provocateurs running out. People run out of the crowd from time to time, run up close, face to face, to crack police officers, shout insults at them. It’s like a roundabout - one comes close, says something insulting, and runs back into the crowd," the Russian journalist described the situation that he had witnessed during protests in Minsk. According to Pegov, he saw four or three such instigators among the protesters, trying to trigger conflict situations.

When the Russian journalist was covering protests at the end of the previous week, he was injured and then detained by Belarusian police. "As for the moment that I lost consciousness - I cannot understand where the blow came from. Striking me on the back of the head. I hesitate to say whether this was from the right or from the left. I am not ready to say whether those were protesters or crack police," he went on to say.

On Monday, media reports said that Pegov was detained in Minsk on August 9 along with several other Russian journalists. They were later released and returned to Russia.

Belarus held the presidential election on August 9. Preliminary results show incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko securing his reelection with 80.08% of the vote.

After exit poll results were revealed late on August 9, suggesting Lukashenko’s landslide victory, many cities and towns across the country saw mass protests that in some cases escalated into clashes with the police. Protests have continued since Sunday. The national Interior Ministry said about 6,000 people had been detained while dozens of police officers and protesters were injured.