Belarus' main opposition candidate has fled to Lithuania following police crackdown on protests over election results that gave incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko sixth term in office.

People talk to Belarusian law enforcement officers near the site where a protester died on August 10 during a rally following the presidential election in Minsk, Belarus August 11, 2020.
People talk to Belarusian law enforcement officers near the site where a protester died on August 10 during a rally following the presidential election in Minsk, Belarus August 11, 2020. (Reuters)

EU foreign ministers have announced they will meet on Friday to discuss targeted sanctions against Belarus following Sunday's contested election and subsequent violent crackdown down on protesters, Sweden's top diplomat said.

The decision came on Wednesday after Alexander Lukashenko had claimed victory in elections with around 80 percent of the vote after being in power since 1994. 

The results triggered three nights of violent clashes between security forces and opposition supporters in which one protester was killed by police. 

READ MORE: EU threatens sanctions on Belarus over 'neither free nor fair' election

Use of firearms

This marks the first time Belarusian authorities confirmed the use of firearms during post-election protests that broke out in the authoritarian ex-Soviet country on Sunday night.

"A group of aggressive citizens with metal rods in their hands attacked police employees in Brest" on Tuesday, spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova said in a statement on Wednesday. 

"Firearms were used to protect the lives and health of the employees," she said, adding that "one of the attackers" was wounded.

Chemodanova said police used firearms after "warning shots in the air" did not stop the group.

Brest, a city of some 340,000 people, is located in southwest Belarus on the border with EU member Poland.

READ MORE: Belarus opposition rejects 'rigged' election results

Thousands arrested

The interior ministry said protesters gathered for protests in 25 cities and towns on Tuesday night and that more than 1,000 people had been detained. The latest arrests have brought the number of detentions to more than 6,000 after three days of protests.

More than 50 people sought medical assistance, it said.

In the western town of Zhabinka someone threw a Molotov cocktail at a police car, the interior ministry added. 

READ MORE : Police, protesters clash after Lukashenko leads in Belarus vote

Rigged elections?

Election officials said Sviatlana Tikhanovskaya, a 37-year-old political novice who ran after other potential opposition candidates including her husband were jailed, came second with 10 percent.

Tikhanovskaya said the vote was rigged and claimed victory, demanding that Lukashenko hand over power, but left Belarus on Tuesday for neighbouring Lithuania for the sake of her children, with supporters saying she came under pressure from authorities.

Her election rallies drew some of the biggest crowds since the fall of the Soviet Union in a country where foreign observers have not judged a single election to be free and fair since 1995.

READ MORE: Belarus opposition leader flees country amid crackdown on protests


"I absolutely think we need to consider broadening targeted sanctions against those responsible for the violence against the protesters (and) for the election fraud - those involved in the electoral process not having turned out free and fair," Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde told Swedish radio on Wednesday.

"This morning there has been a summons to an extraordinary EU foreign ministers' meeting on Friday where we will discuss precisely this (sanctions)," she told the public broadcaster.

Lithuania had also said it would consider such steps.

Any decision on sanctions requires agreement by all 27 EU member states, meaning no imminent move is expected.

As seen in the cases of Russia or Ukraine, such decisions can take weeks or months. Foreign ministers are due to next meet at the end of August in Berlin.

The EU's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, on Tuesday condemned what he called "disproportionate" violence by Belarus authorities against protesters and said the EU could take unspecified measures.

Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said in a letter to Borrell, which was seen by Reuters, that the Friday meeting should "show support for the peaceful protesters and exchange ideas on how the EU could help them".

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has also called for a special summit of EU leaders to come up with a new package for Belarus that would address the protesters' demands on fighting corruption and respecting freedom of speech and the rule of law.

In a letter to top EU officials, which was also seen by Reuters, Morawiecki said the protests in Minsk were "clear proof that many Belarusians want change ... and that they want the European Union to be present in their lives. It is our duty to answer that call".

Source: TRTWorld and agencies