Beaten but not broken, Belarusians tell of brutal treatment as ruler clings to power

Bundled into a police van, beaten and crammed into a cramped Belarusian cell with dozens of others, Aleksei V. hadn’t realized it was possible to feel such fear.

“I could never imagine being so scared in my life,” Aleksei, 40, a marketing manager, recalled of his ordeal in the detention station after tens of thousands of protesters rejected the outcome of the Aug. 9 presidential election.

Strongman Alexander Lukashenko, who has been pictured in a protective vest and carrying a rifle on several occasions, still clings to power after 26 years while the protests continue.

Now, as pressure grows on Lukashenko at home and abroad more than three weeks after the election, personal accounts are emerging of the Belarusian regime’s fervor in stopping the biggest show of discontent in the country’s modern history.