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Belarusian Leader Says About 20 Armed 'Provocateurs' Detained

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on March 21 said about 20 armed militants who were planning "an armed provocation" in Belarus had been apprehended.

Lukashenka alleged the suspects had been trained in militant camps in Belarus, Ukraine, and "most likely" in Lithuania and Poland. He also accused sources in Lithuania and Poland of funding their activities.

Lukashenka's statement came a day after he referred to political opponents in his country as "the fifth column" that wants "to impose tension in Belarus with financial assistance from Western funds and secret services."

Thousands have taken to the streets in the former Soviet republic in recent weeks to protest an unpopular labor law, in the largest antigovernment demonstrations in Belarus in years.

The protesters are unhappy about government plans to tax what it called "social parasites" -- unemployed people. Protests have continued despite a rare decision by Lukashenka to postpone the measure.

More than 150 protesters have been arrested since March 1. Dozens were either fined or sentenced to up to 15 days in jail.

There have been no reports that the protesters were armed.

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