(Reuters) – Anonymous hackers leaked the personal details of 1,000 Belarusian police officers in retaliation for cracking down on street demonstrations against veteran President Alexander Lukashenko as protesters prepared for another mass rally on Sunday.
“While the arrests continue, we will continue to release data on a large scale,”
The government said it would find and punish those responsible for sharing the data, which was widely circulated on Telegram channels on Saturday night.
“The forces, means and technology at the disposal of the internal affairs bodies make it possible to identify and prosecute the vast majority of those guilty of disclosing personal information on the Internet,” said Olga Chemodanova, who Interior Ministry spokeswoman.
The loyalty of the security forces is vital to Lukashenko’s ability to hold onto power after taking a landslide victory last month, but his opponents said he was manipulated to give the former Soviet collective farm chief a sixth term.
Security forces have arrested thousands of people to counter a wave of protests and strikes. Their faces are often covered by masks, balaclavas or protective helmets. Some protesters physically tore off the masks of some officials.
The government said 390 women were arrested for taking part in a protest against Lukashenko on Saturday. Most were released.
Lukashenko’s actions against the protests prompted the European Union to weigh up new sanctions against his government.
Minsk reacted angrily on Saturday to reports that Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the leading opposition candidate in last month’s elections, could soon meet with EU foreign ministers.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also criticized the EU for inviting Tsikhanouskaya to the ministerial meeting and for considering sanctions against Minsk. Brussels tried to “rock” the boat in Belarus.
(That story adds the word “and” in paragraph 3.)
Letter from Matthias Williams; Editing by Alex Richardson