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Two Belarus presidential candidates say attacked by special forces

RIA Novosti

22:31 19/12/2010

MINSK, December 19 (RIA Novosti) - Two candidates in the Belarus presidential elections said on Sunday they were beaten by the special forces officers as they were heading for an unsanctioned rally in downtown Minsk.

Presidential candidate Nikolai Statkevich said he and another candidate Vladimir Neklyaev were attacked while walking in a column of several hundred people. "I was beaten and Neklyaev was beaten and he lost consciousness," he said.

Statkevich said the special forces used noise grenades and batons.

A spokeswoman for Neklyaev confirmed the report saying that he suffered a head injury.

"He has received many bodily injuries to his skull. Now Neklyaev is in intensive care, his medical examination continues," a hospital worker said.

Meanwhile, opposition members said Neklyaev refused to be hospitalized and intends to join the protest action against Sunday's election results.

Opposition said some 10 people, including journalists, were injured in the clash with the special forces.

Voting stations were closed across Belarus at 20:00 local time (18:00 GMT). Incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko is set to secure a landslide victory and claim a fourth term, according to early results of exit polls.

The opposition said it already had evidence of vote-rigging and gathered for a rally at October Square in Minsk to demand holding new elections. Up to 150,000 their supporters are expected to attend the action, they said.

Opposition said earlier police detained leader of Molodoi Front, Dmitry Dashkevich, on the eve of the election and election agent of presidential candidate Vladimir Neklyaev, Mikhail Pashkevich, on Sunday.

However, the Belarus Interior Ministry dismissed the claims that the arrest of Dashkevich was political saying that he was detained over fight.

The ministry spokesman said Dashkevich was detained together with his two accomplices following a fight with two other young men. One of them was severely injured by a naildrawer and hospitalized.

"Police just stopped the scuffle," the spokesman said.

Opposition demanded the Prosecutor General's office thoroughly investigate the circumstances of the detention.

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