Belarusian Oppositionist Detained For Calling Lukashenka 'Self-Proclaimed Leader'

MINSK -- Belarusian opposition politician Zmitser Dashkevich, the organizer of a March 24 rally in Minsk and leader of the unregistered Young Front political movement, reportedly has been detained by police in the Belarusian capital.

Nasta Dashkevich, the opposition leader's wife, told RFE/RL that plainclothes police detained him and "took him away" shortly after he addressed a crowd of about 2,000 people at the rally and described Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka as a "self-proclaimed leader."

Dashkevich's whereabouts remained unclear late on March 24 and police would not confirm whether they were holding him in custody.

However, another rally organizer and opposition leader, Vital Rymashevski of the unregistered Belarusian Christian Democrats, told RFE/RL that police had denied to him that Dashkevich was in the custody of authorities.

Rymashevski himself was briefly detained during the March 24 but later released.

The Minsk rally was staged on the eve of the 101st anniversary of the creation of the short-lived Belarusian People's Republic -- an attempt to form an independent Belarusian state in the chaotic final months of World War I.

The anniversary has become a traditional rally day for opponents of Lukashenka -- who has repeatedly cracked down on opposition leaders, their supporters, and independent news media during his quarter-century in power in the former Soviet republic.

With reporting by AP