Authorities in Belarus have detained several key members of the campaign staff of opposition presidential candidate Alexander Milinkevich.

The detentions came after the candidate held a rally outside a movie theater in the capital, Minsk, ahead of the country's March 19 presidential election.

The opposition website, Charter97 identifies one of those detained as Vintsuk Vyachorka, leader of the Belarus Popular Front. The website says other campaign workers had no information about the detainees for several hours, but then learned they had been taken to a Minsk prison.

The incident is the latest instance of harassment of candidates challenging President Alexander Lukashenko in the election.

Mr. Lukashenko has ruled the former Soviet republic since 1994, and is seeking a third term.

The West has criticized him for his poor human rights record and for quashing political opposition. The United States has called him Europe's last dictator.