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Belarus Activists Mark Independence Day With Antigovernment Protest


Opposition activists in Belarus staged an antigovernment protest in Minsk on July 3, a rally that coincided with Independence Day celebrations in the ex-Soviet republic.

Some 150 people took to the streets of the capital to protest against the government of authoritarian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and military exercises Belarus is set to hold with Russia in September.

The protest, organized by opposition leader Mikalay Statkevich, concluded without incident, and there were no immediate reports of arrests or detentions.

Belarusian authorities in the past have cracked down on antigovernment rallies, often detaining protest leaders prior to the rallies.

Statkevich ran against Lukashenka in the 2010 election. Lukashenka, in office since 1994, was reelected in the vote that his critics say was rigged.

Statkevich was arrested after a large demonstration protesting the election results. He spent five years in prison.

The Independence Day protest came two days before the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's planned annual session in Minsk.

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