MINSK, Belarus (AP) — Scores of protesters were arrested Sunday in the capital of Belarus as supporters of the country’s repressed opposition tried to hold a march.
The attempted demonstration in Minsk was meant to commemorate Belarus’ 1918 proclamation of independence from Russia. The Belarusian People’s Republic lasted until 1919.
The anniversary is traditionally a day for opponents of President Alexander Lukashenko’s authoritarian government to try to rally.
Journalists at the scene counted at least 70 people taken away by police. The human rights group Vyasna said five of its observers were among those arrested.
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One of Belarus’ most prominent opposition figures, Nikolai Statkevich, was arrested outside his home as he headed to the gathering, his wife Marina Adamovich told The Associated Press. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail, she said.
Lukashenko, in office since 1994, sharply restricts opposition activities and independent news media.
Although the march was banned, authorities allowed thousands to gather in a park to mark the independence proclamation’s 100th anniversary.
“Today it’s well visible that Lukashenko is the Soviet past and we are the future,” said a participant, 20-year-old student Mikhail Yaromchik.
But in the evening, police began detentions on the fringe of that gathering. A journalist for U.S. government-funded Radio Svoboda, Galina Abakunchik, said by telephone that she had been detained along with dozens of other people.