Belarus experienced 'nation-scale' internet disruption during election, says web monitoring group

The authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko won his sixth consecutive term

Belarus was hit with widespread disruption in internet connectivity during the country’s closely watched election Sunday, according to web monitoring organization NetBlocks.

“Network telemetry from the NetBlocks internet observatory confirm that internet connectivity in Belarus has been significantly disrupted as of Sunday 9 August 2020 amid tense presidential elections,” NetBlocks said in a statement on its website. “Outages increased in severity through the day producing an information vacuum as citizens struggled to establish contact with the outside world. The incident is ongoing as of Monday afternoon.”

Widespread protests followed the election, which saw authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko win his sixth consecutive term

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NetBlocks cited a news report Saturday that said authorities planned to shut down internet service during the elections. "National cyber-security response center Belarus CERT issued a statement describing the internet restrictions as a measure to block incoming cyber-attacks," NetBlocks said.

Police block a road and use smoke grenades during a protest after the Belarusian presidential election in Minsk, Belarus, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020.

Police block a road and use smoke grenades during a protest after the Belarusian presidential election in Minsk, Belarus, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020. (AP Photo)

The country’s central election commission said that with all ballots counted, Lukashenko, who has led Belarus for 26 years, took 80.23% of the vote and his main opposition challenger, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, had only 9.9%.

On Sunday, NetBlocks tweeted that “#Belarus is in the midst of nation-scale internet disruption affecting fixed-line and cellular operators.”

“Multiple internet providers in #Belarus have lost routing as polling stations start to close from 8:00 p.m; geolocated network data confirm the new disruption has nation-scale impact further limiting visibility of events,” added NetBlocks in a subsequent tweet.

The election was fought amid frustration over a worsening economy and the government's dismissive response to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Human rights groups said one person was killed — which the authorities denied — and dozens were injured in a police crackdown on protests that followed Sunday's presidential election.

Opposition supporters believe the election results were rigged and plan to gather in Minsk for more protests on Monday evening.

Fox News’ Frank Miles and the Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers