Police in Belarus broke up crowds of protesters with stun grenades and water cannon as long-time leader Alexander Lukashenko looked set to declare an overwhelming victory in a presidential poll his opponents say was rigged.

Iran Press/Europe: Thousands of protesters took to the streets of the capital Minsk after a state exit poll showed Lukashenko winning just under 80% in Sunday's election, with main challenger Svetlana Tikhanovskaya coming second with about 7%, the Moscow Times reported.

Tikhanovskaya, a 37-year-old stay-at-home mother and political novice, galvanized the opposition during the election campaign, attracting tens of thousands of supporters to the ex-Soviet country's biggest demonstrations in years.

In the capital Minsk protesters gathered near a central monument late Sunday where they faced off with hundreds of riot police with shields, an AFP journalist and witnesses said.

"I came out to protest because the country needs a change in power," said Alexander, a 35-year-old protester from Minsk. "This is a crime, a mockery of our people."

A live video feed provided by U.S.-funded Radio Liberty showed police firing stun grenades and advancing to disperse the crowd, with many fleeing. The channel posted images of young protesters with their faces covered in blood.

Alexander Lukashenko, the incumbent President, won the presidential election of Belarus with 79.7% of the votes.

His closest rival, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, won 6.8% of votes.

Belarus presidential election was held on Sunday 9 August in more than 5,700 polling stations.


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