Belarusian authorities threatened to shoot protesters with live ammunition, as the regime of Alexander Lukashenko tries to put a stop to relentless demonstrations.
Gennady Kazakevich, a deputy interior minister, dismissed anti-Lukashenko protesters in televised remarks as "militants, radicals and anarchists" and said that law enforcement agencies were prepared to use live rounds against them.
"Police as well as internal troops will use crowd control measures and live ammunition if necessary," he said.
Belarusian police killed a man in the western city of Brest in August using live ammunition, but officials claimed at the time they had acted in self defence.
"People like that should resign," Andrey Fedorovich, an IT professional from Minsk who often goes to opposition protests, said of Kazakevich.
"Demonstrators have been as peaceful as can be," said Fedorovich. "Authorities are doing their best to radicalise the protest."
Tens of thousands took to the streets of Minsk and other Belarusian cities yesterday and more than 700 people were arrested, according to the Belarusian Interior Ministry, in often violent scenes.
Today elderly women rallied in the capital carrying posters declaring: "Grandmas are with you!"
Footage from the protest showed plain-clothed police officers pepper-spraying and using stun grenades against the women.
Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since 1994, has described the demonstrators as paid agents and their leaders as criminals.
However, the threat of live ammunition was preceded by signs of increased diplomatic engagement, with Lukashenko meeting with dozens of opposition figures at a notorious KGB prison on Sunday.
Speaking to the visibly frail prisoners, Lukashenko said that "the constitution can't be written in the street" and urged them to "convince" their supporters to back down.
A day later, Belarusian authorities unexpectedly released two jailed businessmen with links to the opposition who were present at the meeting.