MASS DEMONSTRATION IN MINSK AGAINST UNION WITH RUSSIA.
Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 83
Some 20,000 people — the authorities admitted to "more than 10,000" — demonstrated in Minsk on April 26 at the call of the Popular Front and the legitimate parliament, whose leaders marched at the front of the procession. The demonstration commemorated the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear disaster while at the same time protesting against the "political Chornobyl" of a forced union with Russia. Supporters of parties and movements of the united opposition marched in distinct columns under their own symbols and the national flag banned by the regime. Orthodox and Catholic priests blessed the columns, in a significant if implicit rebuff to the authorities’ attempts to isolate the two denominations from one another. A group representing Russia’s Democratic Choice and another from the Moscow-based "Russian Antifascist Youth Movement" participated under the slogan "No to union with Lukashenko." The official Chornobyl Day rally by contrast drew only 300 participants.
Unlike last year’s Chornobyl Day demonstration and recent protests, yesterday’s demonstration was allowed to proceed unimpeded by the police. Western diplomats and journalists observed the Minsk demonstration as a test of the regime’s behavior. Authorities in several other cities forbade demonstrations. (Western agencies, Belapan, Interfax, NTV, April 26-27)
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