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Protesters and riot police clash in Minsk, Belarus, on Sunday during a demonstration against President Alexander Lukashenko's claim of a landslide victory. Photo: Misha Friedman/Getty Images)

Riot police clashed with protesters in Belarus overnight after a government exit poll predicted Sunday President Aleksander Lukashenko, an authoritarian who has ruled the Eastern European country since 1994, had overwhelmingly defeated a pro-democracy opposition candidate.

The latest: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the election as "not free and fair" on Monday and urged the Belarusian government to "refrain from use of force" against protesters who have taken to the streets. At least one person has died in the protests, while hundreds have been injured and thousands arrested.

Why it matters: It's a precarious moment for the former Soviet republic, where decades of repression and a complete disregard for the coronavirus pandemic threaten to topple "Europe's last dictator." Rights groups said at least one protester was killed and dozens more wounded in a "police crackdown," per AP.

The state of play: Opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a teacher who replaced her husband on the ticket when he was arrested for launching his campaign, is claiming victory based on results from 20 polling stations, where a spokesman told the Globe and Mail her vote share was "two, three, four times" that of Lukashenko.

  • The government exit poll that triggered Sunday's protests, which had been ongoing at a smaller scale for weeks, showed Lukashenko with 79.7% of the vote and Tikhanovskaya with 6.8%.
  • Tikhanovskaya, had not been seen or heard from for hours on Monday after filing a complaint at the Central Election Commission. Her team later issued a short and mysterious statement, saying: "Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has made contact. She’s fine."

In the meantime, thousands of Belarusians have taken to the streets in cities all over the country to protest the allegedly rigged results.

  • They've been met in many instances with riot police and other security forces, who have been documented on social media deploying tear gas and violently attacking protesters.
  • Convoys of military personnel were filmed moving into the capital of Minsk, where main roads into the city have been blocked off. The internet was also reported to have been shut down late Sunday.

What they're saying: "As neighbors of Belarus, we call on Belarusian authorities to fully recognize and uphold basic democratic standards," the presidents of Poland and Lithuania said in a joint statement.

  • "We urge to refrain from violence and call for respect of fundamental freedoms, human and citizen rights including the rights of national minorities and freedom of speech."
  • "We are convinced that closer cooperation with the European Union is in the interest of Belarus, we want the doors for this cooperation to remain open and stand ready to continue to provide further support to Belarus in deepening its relations with the united European family."

European Council President Charles Michel tweeted: "Violence against protesters is not the answer #Belarus. Freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, basic human rights must be upheld."

  • European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen called on Belarusian authorities to ensure an accurate vote count and said the EU is "ready to support the process of de-escalation and dialogue that would lead to democratisation and a closer, more intense EU-Belarus Partnership."

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said at a briefing Monday that the Trump administration is "deeply concerned" about the Belarus election and urged the government to "respect the right to peaceably assemble and refrain from the use of force."

This story is developing. Please check back for updates

On the ground
Law enforcement officers detain a protester in Minsk. Photo: Natalia Fedosenko/TASS via Getty Images
Riot police detain a protester in Minsk. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images
Riot police disperse protesters in Minsk. Photo: Siarhei/AFP via Getty Images
A man talks to a riot police officer during the protest in Minsk. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images
A man lies on the ground in front of riot police in Minsk. Photo: Sergei Gapon/AFP via Getty Images
Riot police block an area after polls closed in Minsk. Photo: Sergei Gapon/AFP via Getty Images
Opposition supporters in Minsk. Photo: Sergei Gapon/AFP via Getty Images

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In photos: Egypt uncovers 100 ancient coffins buried 2,500 years ago

Newly rediscovered ancient sarcophagi are displayed in Saqqara, Egypt. Photo: Fadel Dawood/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

Archaeologists in Egypt unveiled Saturday some 40 gilded statues and at least 100 ancient coffins dating back over 2,500 years — and some contain mummies.

The big picture: The find in a vast pharaonic necropolis at Saqqara, south of Cairo, follows 59 intact sarcophagi uncovered at the site in September and October. Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Anany told a briefing, "Saqqara has yet to reveal all of its contents," per Al Jazeera. "Excavations are still under way."

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Why it matters: The detention of Navalny, an anti-corruption activist and the most prominent domestic critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has already set off a chorus of condemnations from leaders in Europe and the U.S.

Biden picks Warren allies to lead SEC, CFPB

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President-elect Joe Biden has selected FTC commissioner Rohit Chopra to be the next director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and Obama-era Wall Street regulator Gary Gensler to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Why it matters: Both picks are progressive allies of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and viewed as likely to take aggressive steps to regulate big business.

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