The annual April 26 march is to commemorate the Belarusian victims of the world's worst nuclear disaster. But it has traditionally also been a forum of protest against the the policies of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
City officials insisted marchers take a route away from the city center for the event. Opposition activists had intended to march from Minsk's central October Square along the main boulevard, but agreed to the proposed route to avoid a confrontation with the authorities.
October Square was the scene of protests against Lukashenka's reelection last month, which the opposition and Western governments denounced as fraudulent.
A Checkered Past
Local resident Ramzis Fayzullin is a modern-day victim of the Mayak disaster. (Greenpeace/Knoth)
IN THE SHADOW OF MAYAK: Russia has said it has no plans to shut down Mayak, the country's biggest reprocessor of spent nuclear fuel. The plant, located just east of the Ural mountains in Russia's Chelyabinsk Oblast, is considered to be the site of some of the worst radioactive contamination on Earth.
Mayak was created in the 1940s as the heart of the Soviet Union's nuclear program. But today the territory around the plant is a wasteland, with generations of residents suffering from sterility, cancer, asthma, and other illnesses....(more)