More Than 1,500 People Protest In Minsk Against Integration With Russia

MINSK -- Hundreds of people have rallied in Minsk for a second time in recent days to protest plans of further integration between Belarus and Russia.

Some 1,600 people marched on December 20 from the Belarusian capital's October Square to Independence Square, where they rallied with red-striped white banners -- the banned flag of the first independent Belarusian republic -- as well as European Union flags and posters with messages against integration with neighboring Russia.

The demonstrators chanted "Independence!" and "Long live Belarus!"

The march and rallies came as the presidents of Russia and Belarus on December 20 met for the second time this month to discuss bilateral issues amid increasing pressure by Moscow for further integration.

Vladimir Putin and Alyaksandr Lukashenka held talks in St. Petersburg on December 20.

On December 7, the two leaders discussed the issue in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi. Belarusian activists staged protests for two days in a row at that time.

Earlier in the week, several leading opposition activists were jailed for up to 15 days for taking part in the December 7-8 march and rallies, which their supporters say was meant to prevent them from attending the December 20 rallies.