Tens of thousands of people call on Alexander Lukashenko to step down as protests enter the 50th day

Dozens of people were arrested by Belarusian police as tens of thousands of people again gathered calling on leader Alexander Lukashenko to step down.

Police admitted using tear gas and stun grenades to disperse what they called “disobedient” protesters in the eastern city of Gomel on Sunday.

But local media footage circulating online showed officers spraying a substance directly into people’s faces. Many of the protesters were women, who retreated while shouting “fascists”.

On Sunday, more than 50 people were detained.

Sunday also marks the 50th day of the  protests following August’s disputed presidential vote. Earlier this week Mr Lukashenko held a secret inauguration.

The electoral commission says Mr Lukashenko won a sixth term with more than 80% of votes. But the opposition says he cheated and that they won the election with at least 60% of the vote.

Several EU countries and the US say they do not recognise Mr Lukashenko as the legitimate president of Belarus.

Mr Lukashenko has ruled the former Soviet republic for 26 years said Belarus needed security and consensus “on the brink of a global crisis”, an apparent reference to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I cannot, I have no right to abandon the Belarusians,” he added, without making reference to the mass rallies demanding his resignation.

His main rival for president, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, and other key opposition figures are currently in self-imposed exile in neighbouring countries following a wave of arrests amid the demonstrations.

Ms Tikhanovskaya said on Wednesday that Mr Lukashenko was “neither a legal nor a legitimate head of Belarus”.