About 2,000 Belarusian opposition supporters gathered in Minsk on March 25 for their first sanctioned rally since President Alyaksandr Lukashenka crushed protests after his disputed 2010 reelection.
Demonstrators met on the outskirts of Minsk for a tightly policed march and rally in honor of the "Day of Freedom" -- an
unofficial holiday marking the day an independent Belarus state was created in 1918.
The opposition has used the date to rally against Lukashenka's strong-arm rule. But such protests have been banned since last year.
With riot police standing by, activists waved flags and carried banners with slogans including "Freedom for Political Prisoners" and "Lukashenka is a dead end."
"It is in fact a significant date in the history of our country,” said Vladimir Kolas, an opposition activist. “This date should be celebrated on the state level, at the biggest squares of our capital. But regretfully it still doesn't take place.”
The European Union on March 23 agreed to broaden sanctions against Belarus -- including freezing the assets of companies and barring more officials from entering the EU.