Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has left the country and is “safe” in Lithuania, its foreign minister says, as unrest continues over Sunday’s disputed presidential poll.
Ms Tikhanovskaya’s campaign team said she was avoiding the protests because of “possible provocations”.
Election results gave veteran President Alexander Lukashenko 80%, but Ms Tikhanovskaya refuses to accept them.
A lack of scrutiny, with no observers present, has led to claims of fraud.
Mr Lukashenko, in power since 1994, has described opposition supporters as “sheep” controlled from abroad.
On Monday evening police in Belarus’s capital Minsk fired rubber bullets to quash protests, and officials say one demonstrator died when an explosive device went off in his hands – the first confirmed fatality since the clashes began.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius tweeted about Ms Tikhanovskaya’s whereabouts on Tuesday morning after rumours that she had disappeared.
There had been concern for her on Monday but her campaign later said she was “safe”, without saying where.
Mr Linkevicius told Lithuanian radio Ms Tikhanovskaya had been detained for seven hours in Belarus but did not say why or by whom.
An associate of the opposition leader said she had been escorted from the country by the authorities as part of a deal to allow the release of her campaign manager, Maria Moroz, who was arrested before the election on Friday evening. The two women left the country together.
The election campaign saw the rise of Ms Tikhanovskaya, 37, a former teacher who was a stay-at-home mother until she was thrust into the political spotlight.
After her husband was arrested and blocked from registering for the vote, she stepped in to take his place.
President Lukashenko has dismissed Ms Tikhanovskaya as a “poor little girl”, manipulated by foreign “puppet masters”.
After the vote took place, her campaign said the results, which gave her just 9.9% of the vote, “did not correspond to reality” and vowed to challenge “numerous falsifications”.
Ms Tikhanovskaya told reporters that she had in fact won the election, and called on the authorities to relinquish power peacefully. Protests began as soon as polls closed and continued for a second night on Monday.
However, Mr Lukashenko said he would respond robustly to the protests and not allow the country to be torn apart.
Svetlana Tikhanovskaya went missing after lodging an official complaint about the election result. She was quoted as saying “I’ve made my decision” but nobody could confirm her whereabouts for many hours.
Now the foreign minister of neighbouring Lithuania says she is there – and safe. How that happened is not clear yet.
On Monday, the KGB security service in Belarus claimed it foiled a plot to assassinate the opposition candidate – and make her a “sacrificial lamb”, for protesters. At a news conference in Minsk, she seemed nervous, slightly unsure; the same day she told the BBC she was scared.
The fact Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has fled, though, will not affect the unprecedented mass protests that have rocked Belarus for a second night – crowds clashing with riot police.
They are organised through social media – mainly Telegram – not by her campaign team and the candidate had not joined them in person. She only ran for president after her activist husband was arrested – and for voters, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has always been a symbol of change, a route to that, rather than a leader.
Riot police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades to disperse thousands of demonstrators rallying in the capital.
Polish-based broadcaster Belsat TV aired footage of the police charging into the crowds.
Reports say some of the demonstrators fought back, throwing petrol bombs. Protesters also tried to build barricades.
A number of people were arrested. One journalist was injured, her colleagues and eyewitnesses said.
The BBC’s Abdujalil Abdurasulov in Minsk says protesters were put in police vans, and the sound of beatings could be heard as the officers entered, and the people inside cried for help.
The scale of the protests and the violence used to disperse the crowds is unprecedented, he says, and protesters are struggling to learn the whereabouts of missing friends and relatives.