Hundreds Attend Protest Against Russian Air Base In Belarus

By RFE/RL's Belarus Service

Hundreds of people gathered in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, on October 4 at an unsanctioned protest against the establishment of a Russian air base in Belarus.

Some 500 people attended the protest, which lasted several hours in central Minsk.

Former presidential candidate Mikalay Statkevich spoke at the rally and denounced Russian plans to establish an air base.

He said the goal of the air base is to target Ukraine, which would make Belarus a target for both NATO and Ukraine.

In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to a government proposal to sign a deal for the military air base and ordered officials to start talks on the issue with Belarus.

The plan is not expected to face major obstacles.

Russia has two military facilities in Belarus -- a radar station and a submarine communications center.

It also has some fighter aircraft in Belarus, but the plan would establish the first full-scale base there since Soviet times.