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Belarusian opposition leader and former presidential candidate Mikalay Statkevich has held an unauthorized rally in central Minsk.

Statkevich, who was released from prison last month after being pardoned by Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, held the demonstration despite being warned by police to end it.

Although plainsclothes police monitored the rally, security forces did not interrupt the protest.

A few hundred people came to the rally, where Statkevich urged people to ignore the October 11 presidential election.

He said the most important thing for the opposition is to be able to ensure that fair elections will be held in Belarus.

Statkevich said it is important for the opposition to unite in order to realistically oppose Lukashenka.

Opposition figures Anatol Lebedko and Uladzimer Nyaklyaeu were among those who attended the rally and spoke via loudspeaker to supporters.

Statkevich was a candidate in the 2010 presidential election but was arrested immediately afterwards and later convicted of "organizing mass disturbances."

Several other presidential candidates were also arrested and later sentenced to prison.

Statkevich was released with five other prisoners -- all six of whom were considered political prisoners by human rights groups -- on August 22.

Their release was seen as a concession by Lukashenka to the EU for improving ties ahead of the upcoming presidential election.

With reporting by TASS

BRUSSELS -- Russia’s slain opposition politician Boris Nemtsov and imprisoned Ukrainian military pilot and parliament member Nadiya Savchenko are among the nominees for the 2015 Sakharov Prize.

The 50,000-euro prize, established by the European Parliament in 1988, is awarded every year to individuals or groups of people who have dedicated their lives to the defense of human rights and freedom of thought.

Nemtsov, a former Russian deputy prime minister of Russia, was murdered in February 2015. He was a vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin.

Savchenko was captured in 2014 by Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine and handed over to Russia, where she is being tried on charges of participating in the murder of Russian journalists.

The nominees also include three whistleblowers -- Edward Snowden, Antoine Deltour, and Stephanie Gibaud -- Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, Somalian activist Edna Adan Ismail, and Mesa da la Unidad Democracia, which provides legal services for political prisoners and opposition groups in Venezuela.

The winner will be decided in October.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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