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Early Voting Begins In Belarus As Opposition Warns Of Stolen Votes

Leading opposition candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich warned supporters that an early vote would be a stolen vote (file photo) ( March 14, 2006 -- Advance voting opened today in Belarus' presidential elections in which President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is widely expected to win a third term in office.

The main opposition candidate in the March 19 vote, Alyaksandr Milinkevich, said advance votes would simply be stolen by the authorities.

Officials have dismissed the criticism as groundless.

Meanwhile Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin was quoted as accusing "certain partners" of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) of trying to "manipulate" the vote.

Opposition groups, human-rights advocates, the European Union, and the United States say they do not expect the election to be free or fair.

Minsk last week refused to grant observer status to a European Union delegation at the March 19 presidential elections. Georgian observers were today barred from entering the country.

(compiled from agency reports)

Belarus Votes 2006

Belarus Votes 2006

Click on the image to view a dedicated page with news, analysis, and background information about the Belarusian presidential ballot.

MEET THE CANDIDATES: Read brief biographies of the four candidates in the March 19 election.

Click on the image to view RFE/RL's coverage of the election campaign in Belarusian and to listen to RFE/RL's Belarusian Service.