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Belarusians In Four Cities Protest Against Special Tax On Unemployed


More than 3,000 people have demonstrated in regional centers across Belarus against an unpopular new law that targets the unemployed.

In the eastern city of Vitsebsk, an estimated 1,000 demonstrators took to the streets on February 26 to protest what the government is calling a “Law Against Social Parasites.”

Other cities where demonstrations were held on February 26 included Babruysk, Berastse, and Baranavichy.

The protests on February 26 were a rare sign of political dissent in the tightly controlled former Soviet republic.

Although police in Belarus often crack down on demonstrations that are not formally approved by authorities, there were no immediate reports of any arrests on February 26.

The law imposes a special tax -- equivalent to more than $200 dollars -- upon Belarusians who work less than half of a calendar year and do not sign up at the country's labor bureaus.

The law effects about 430,000 people.

Exempt from the special tax are registered job-seekers, homemakers, subsistence farmers, and people who work in Russia.

In Minsk, a protest earlier in February gathered more than 2,000 people and reportedly was the largest opposition gathering in Belarus in the last five years.

With reporting by AP
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