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Belarusians Mark Freedom Day

MINSK -- The Belarusian opposition has called on the country's population to actively mark Freedom Day, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Every year on March 25, Belarusian opposition leaders and activists hold public actions to mark Freedom Day, which is not an official holiday in Belarus.

Freedom Day commemorates the creation on that date in 1918 of the Belarusian People's Republic (BNR).

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his government do not recognize Freedom Day. They say that the short-lived BNR was created by the Germans, who were occupying Belarus in 1918.

This year, opposition groups and movements are holding a mass gathering near the National Academy of Sciences in Minsk.

The head of the committee that organized this year's commemoration, opposition Belarusian People's Front Chairman Alyaksey Yanukevich, told RFE/RL that although the Minsk municipal authorities granted official permission for the gathering, they banned a planned march from the Academy of Sciences to Kupala Park in the city center.

Instead, they insist that the demonstrators march on Bangalore Square on the outskirts of Minsk.

According to Yanukevich, the authorities do not realize that times are changing and that March 25 has assumed great historical significance and importance for Belarusian citizens.