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Peaceful Protest in Belarus Against Lukashenko

Thousands of Belarusian opposition supporters marched in Minsk Sunday against the authoritarian policies of President Alexander Lukashenko.

At least 5,000 people heard opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich demand closer ties to Europe, saying Europe means free elections and free citizens.

He said Belarusians will keep demonstrating as long as they are not free.

The demonstration was peaceful. But the Belarusian opposition website Charter 97 says authorities kept European Parliament Vice President Janusz Onyszkiewicz from entering the country to speak to the crowd.

Belarusian authorities have marchers the rare permission to demonstrate, although they were only allowed to gather in a remote park in Minsk instead of the city center.

Riot police warned demonstrators who did gather in the central square that they were breaking the law, but made no moves to stop them.

The European Union and United States have imposed travel sanctions on senior Belarusian officials, including President Lukashenko, for suppressing human rights and free speech. Mr. Lukashenko claims he has widespread support in Belarus and accuses the West of interfering in Belarusian internal affairs.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.