In a shift, Belarus leader seeks to stem protests gradually

MINSK, Belarus (AP) — When Belarusians filled the streets to protest what they called a fraudulent election, police used tear gas, flash grenades and beatings in a harsh crackdown. But the heavy-handed measures after the Aug. 9 election that kept authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko in power seemed to have the opposite effect. The moves emboldened more protesters and triggered strikes at state-run factories. Now it seems that the 65-year-old president is shifting tactics. He is trying to squelch the rallies gradually with vague promises of reforms mixed with threats, court summonses and selectively jailing leading activists. Observers say Lukashenko likely will hold onto power for now but almost certainly will face more challenges as the economy worsens.