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Protests In Belarus Enter Fourth Day

Demonstrators on October Square on March 21 (RFE/RL) March 22, 2006 -- Protests against a new five-year term for Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka entered their fourth day today.

Several hundred protesters spent another night in a central square in Minsk to press their demand for a repeat of the March 19 election.

Authorities say Lukashenka won with more than 82 percent of the vote, but the opposition, backed by the United States and the EU, says the election was rigged.

Police have not moved in to disperse the protesters but continued harassing and detaining some of them. RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported that some protesters were beaten up by police as they tried to briefly leave October (Kastrychnitskaya) Square.

Alyaksandr Milinkevich, Lukashenka's main opposition challenger in the election, on March 21 accused the police of using unfair tactics.

"Those cowards are afraid to come here [on the square] to arrest us, although they have no right to arrest us," he said. "Therefore, they're trying to lure people [out of the square] and twist their arms around the corner. Then they bring charges against them."

Milinkevich has urged supporters to join a March 25 rally to mark the independence day of the short-lived Belarusian Democratic Republic that was proclaimed during World War I.

(with additional material from AFP, Reuters, and AP)

See The Square

See The Square

The October Square demonstration on the morning of March 21 (RFE/RL)

MAKING A DIFFERENCE? Some 200 demonstrators remain in central Minsk following an overnight vigil on March 20-21 to protest official election results giving President Alyaksandr Lukashenka a third term in office. Opposition supporters braved the threat of police action to stage a second night of protests in the capital's October (Kastrychnitskaya) Square following the March 19 vote. Russia approved the election, but both the European Union and the United States said the ballot was neither free nor fair. The opposition is calling for a new vote. But it is uncertain what impact, if any, the public protest will have....(more)

SEE FOR YOURSELF: View a short video clip taken on October Square on the morning of March 21:
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THE COMPLETE PICTURE: Click on the image to view a dedicated page with news, analysis, and background information about the Belarusian presidential ballot.

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