Belarus Activists Rally at Protest Camp in Minsk
23 March 2006
Opposition activists in Belarus are continuing their around-the-clock protest in the center of Minsk, denouncing the conduct of the vote this week that re-elected Alexander Lukashenko president of the former Soviet republic.
Thousands of people have gathered daily for protest rallies at October Square in the Belarusian capital, and at least 300 have camped out each night in freezing conditions to keep the demonstration going.
Some reports Thursday, say the number of protesters has been declining day by day, but those who spent a third night outdoors in sub-zero temperatures, dancing and singing folk songs to keep warm, are hopeful the demonstration will grow in size before a massive rally called for Saturday.
The protesters are demanding annulment of the election and calling for a new vote between the incumbent, President Lukashenko, and opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich. Authorities in Minsk have rejected international monitors' objections and are expected to certify the results of Sunday's vote, which was reported as a 13-1 landslide for Mr. Lukashenko.
Police surround the protesters, but they have made no attempt to disperse the crowd by force. Opposition activists say more than 100 people have been arrested this week, usually while approaching or leaving the protest camp.
Those who were detained include independent newspaper editor Andrei Dynko, who was sentenced to 10 days in jail Wednesday on charges of petty hooliganism.
European monitors and the United States have condemned Sunday's election as a fraud, but Russian monitors said voting was free and transparent.
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