Minsk, 2 September 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Supporters of the leading opposition presidential candidate in Belarus, Uladzimir Hancharyk, held an unsanctioned rally in the capital Minsk today, calling on residents to vote against incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The rally, which was held a few hundred meters away from the presidential palace, was trade union leader Hancharyk's first meeting with Minsk voters ahead of the 9 September presidential ballot.
Human rights groups claimed that up to 3,000 people took part. Police refrained to comment after unsuccessfully calling on the gathering to disperse.
Hancharyk called upon Belarusian citizens to take to the streets and defend democracy after next Sunday's presidential election.
Security forces briefly detained human rights activists yesterday night as they prepared to hand-out leaflets in support of Hancharyk at a World Cup qualifying soccer match between Belarus and Ukraine (Ukraine won 2-0).