Minsk: Belarus has arrested almost 300 people in a massive nationwide crackdown on Independence Day protests against the regime of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, a rights group said on Monday.

The Vyasna Rights Group said 200 people were arrested in Minsk during Sunday's protests while another 80 were arrested in other parts of the country including the regional centres of Grodno, Gomel and Mogilev.

The protesters sought to show their dissatisfaction with Lukashenko by clapping their hands but police arrested anyone who joined in the applause, beating activists and firing tear gas, said a media report.

Vyasna said in a statement on its website that the arrested included 17 journalists although most of the reporters were freed overnight.

Local media reports said that some 140 people would appear in the Court in Minsk on Monday charges of hooliganism over the protests.

The police have yet to give an official figure of the number arrested or how many people were freed overnight.

Lukashenko launched a crackdown on the opposition, unprecedented even in his 17 years of authoritarian rule, after mass protests on the evening of his landslide re-election victory in December.