A group of armed individuals entered and searched the offices of the Russian Internet service company in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, on Thursday, the fourth day of unrest sparked by the controversial re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko.
A spokesman for the company, Yandex, told NBC News on Thursday the gunmen, whom they have not identified, are in their offices. The company was “seeing the situation,” he said, without giving further details.
It was not clear whether the men were government security officers or police officers. NBC News has approached the country̵7;s interior ministry and the investigative committee for comments.
The protests have raged in Minsk and other cities as Lukashenko, who has ruled the country for 26 years, won an estimated 80 percent of the vote. The confirmer, opposition leader Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya, has now fled to Lithuania.
The opposition called the election rigged once early exit polls reported on Sunday that Lukashenko’s big lead. Since then, thousands of people across the country have taken to the streets in protest.
Security forces clashed with several protesters, using tear gas, rubber bullets and heavy grenades amid widespread internet and mobile interruptions. The interior ministry said thousands of people had been arrested, and dozens of protesters and police had been injured. A protester died Monday in Minsk.
As tensions continued to boil, hundreds of women, dressed in white flowers and holding on, formed “long lines of solidarity” with protesters on Thursday. Some carried placards reading “We are together” in Belarusian.
The government’s crackdown on protesters drew sharp criticism from the country’s European neighbors, the US and the United Nations.