Seven opposition activists detained in Belarus' capital Minsk during annual march

The Associated Press

MINSK, Belarus Police detained seven opposition activists Sunday during an annual march in the Belarus capital Minsk commemorating the victims of Stalinist purges, one of the organizers of the event said.

About 1,000 people took part in the authorized march from downtown Minsk to a site of Soviet-era mass executions on the outskirts of the capital.

Several hundred police were present to monitor the gathering. Some participants carried posters with the slogans: "No to Union with Russia!" and "Union with Russia Means Hunger and Killings." Mikola Kryzhanovsky, from the opposition Conservative-Christian party, said that police arrested seven activists.

Police did not confirm the detentions. The marchers carried 12 wooden crosses which they set up at the Kuropaty mass grave site, where about 100,000 people were shot dead between 1937 and 1941.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has ruled the ex-Soviet nation of 10 million since 1994, quashing opposition groups and independent media, leading Western nations to call him "Europe's last dictator" and treat him as a pariah. An open admirer of the Soviet Union, he has signed a loose union treaty with Russia.

"Political repression in Belarus continues and Kuropaty reminds Belarusians what frightening consequences tyranny leads to," Kryzhanovsky told the marchers.

Police on Sunday detained an aide to opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich in the city of Grodno, 300 kilometers (190 miles) west of Minsk, Milinkevich's press spokesman Pavel Mozheiko told The Associated Press.

Andrei Kuselchuk was accused of distributing unauthorized documents, the opposition spokesman said.

On Monday in Minsk, the leader of an unregistered opposition youth group, Emitser Dashkevich, is to go on trial on charges of illegal political activity. He faces a jail sentence of up to a three years if found guilty.