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Belarus: Missing Opposition Figure Is Found

Alyaksandr Kazulin (file photo) (RFE/RL) Missing Belarusian opposition leader Alyaksandr Kazulin has been located in a detention facility outside Minsk, as many protesters remain in jail a day after clashing with police in the capital. The demonstrators accuse President Alyaksandr Lukashenka of stealing the March 19 presidential elections. The European Union and the United States, which have criticized the vote as unfair, are now demanding Kazulin's release.

PRAGUE, March 26, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Scores of Belarusian opposition activists were still in jail a day after police dispersed a rally in Minsk.

However, the whereabouts of the country's second-leading opposition figure, Alyaksandr Kazulin, are now known, after his wife said earlier that she did not know his whereabouts.

A spokesman for Kazulin, Ilya Rassolov, told RFE/RL's Russian Service today that Kazulin was detained in the town of Zhodina, about 50 kilometers east of the capital, Minsk.

"A case was opened under Article 339 for hooliganism," Rassolov said. "[Kazulin] will meet a lawyer only tomorrow. The case is led by an investigator from Minsk, although Zhodina is outside of Minsk. We were told that Kazulin is not complaining about his health. However, we are going to demand a medical examination because there are some doubts. Our main task now is to establish contact with him."

Kazulin was arrested on March 25 as he was leading protesters to the Akrestsina detention center in Minsk to demand the release of demonstrators held over the past few days. Belarusian Interior Minister Uladzimir Navumou said Kazulin was arrested because he called on people to attack state installations.

Rally Ends Peacefully

The incident occurred just after a large opposition rally ended peacefully in central Yanka Kupala Square to demand the outcome of the March 19 presidential poll be annulled.

Last week saw daily protests, led by opposition leader Alyaksandr Milinkevich, on Minsk's October (Kastrychnitskaya) Square. Security forces cleared the square on March 24, arresting scores of protesters.

International Sanctions

The same day, U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli urged the international community to put pressure on Belarus's authorities.

"The United States and the European Union remain united in our response to the situation in Belarus," he said in Washington. "We urge all members of the international community to demand that Belarusian authorities respect the rights of their citizens to express themselves peacefully and to condemn any and all abuses."

The European Union and the United States have demanded Kazulin's release. Austria, which currently holds the EU presidency, said in a statement issued late on March 25 that it was "appalled" by the violence used against demonstrators by the Belarusian authorities.

Following the elections, the EU and the United States announced plans to sanction Lukashenka's regime due to violations of international electoral standards.

The Belarusian government insists the polls were fair.

Minsk, March 25

Minsk, March 25

THE AUTHORITIES GET TOUGH: RFE/RL's Belarus Service filed these images from the police action against the March 25 demonstration in Minsk. Photographs by Maks Kapran.


Listen to the sounds of the demonstration:
Real Audio Windows Media
Real Audio Windows Media





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 Belarusian Service.

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