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Belarusian Officials Reject Chornobyl Anniversary Rallies

BABRUISK/SLONIM, Belarus -- Officials in the eastern Belarusian city of Babruisk have refused to allow opposition groups to hold a rally to mark the 25th anniversary of the Chornobyl nuclear disaster in neighboring Ukraine, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Activists of the opposition Belarusian United Civic party (AHP) and A Just World party had applied for permission to hold the gathering at the sports stadium outside of Babruisk on April 21.

Viktar Buzinayeu, AHP branch leader in Babruisk, told RFE/RL the city authorities explained their refusal by saying that the AHP and A Just World party are not officially registered.

But Buzinayeu said that is untrue and the authorities gave that explanation in order to play for time. He said by the time the parties prove that they are officially registered, the date for the rally will be past.

AHP and A Just World activists planned to distribute leaflets and brochures about the "danger and possible consequences" of the new nuclear power plant Belarusian authorities are planning to build.

Meanwhile, authorities in the western town of Slonim also refused to allow activists to hold a mass gathering marking the Chornobyl anniversary, which is on April 26.

Ivan Bedka, a member of the Union of Democratic Forces in Slonim, told RFE/RL the activists planned to hold the rally near the central market in Slonim.

But authorities refused to allow the gathering, saying that the market cannot be used for such meetings.

Slonim activists say they will find a way to gather before or on April 26.

The total meltdown at Chornobyl's No. 4 reactor in 1986 killed dozens of people and sickened thousands of others. Tens of thousands were displaced as radiation spread to many parts of Europe, but primarily to the territory of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia.

A UN panel, the UN Scientific Committee on Atomic Radiation, recently estimated that the disaster "most likely" caused many of the 6,000 cases of thyroid cancer seen over the past decades in children and adolescents in those three countries who were exposed to radiation from Chornobyl.

Read more in Belarusian here and here