(Reuters) – Anonymous hackers leaked the personal data of 1,000 Belarusian police officers in retaliation for a crackdown on street demonstrations against veteran President Alexander Lukashenko, as protesters prepared for another mass demonstration Sunday.
“As the arrests continue, we will continue to publish large-scale data,”
The government said it would identify and punish those responsible for the data leak, which was widely distributed on Telegram channels Saturday night.
“The forces, means and technologies at the disposal of the internal affairs bodies make it possible to identify and prosecute the vast majority of perpetrators of personal data leaks on the Internet,” said Olga Chemodanova, spokesperson for the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The loyalty of the security forces is crucial to Lukashenko’s ability to remain in power following last month’s presidential election, in which he claimed a landslide victory but his opponents say he was rigged to hand over to the former head of the collective farm. Soviet a sixth term.
Security forces arrested thousands of people in response to a wave of protests and strikes, their faces often obscured by masks, balaclavas or riot helmets. Some demonstrators physically tore off the masks of some officers.
The government said 390 women were arrested for taking part in a protest against Lukashenko on Saturday. Most have been released.
Lukashenko’s crackdown on protests has prompted the European Union to weigh new sanctions against his government.
Minsk reacted angrily on Saturday to reports that Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the main opposition candidate in last month’s elections, may soon be meeting 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, saying Brussels was trying to “rock the boat” in Belarus.
(This story adds the forgotten word “e” in paragraph 3.)
Written by Matthias Williams; Editing by Alex Richardson