23:06 GMT +318 January 2018
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    178 opposition supporters detained in Minsk-rights activists

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    The center said six of those detained had been released, all of them minors, and 16 protesters had been already sentenced to administrative arrests from seven to 10 days.

    MINSK, March 24 (RIA Novosti) - A Belarusian human rights center, Vesna (Spring), said Friday that 178 protesters had been detained when police broke up a rally in central Minsk in the early hours of Friday morning.

    The center said six of those detained had been released, all of them minors, and 16 protesters had been already sentenced to administrative arrests from seven to 10 days.

    According to the center, one detainee was Canadian.

    The Russian Union of Right Forces (SPS) said two Russians had been detained in Minsk. A statement from the liberal party said the detention was an "unfriendly and unlawful action by the Belarusian government" and demanded their immediate release.

    Belarusian police forcibly broke up a five-day protest in central Minsk staged by opponents of President Alexander Lukashenko against the results of last weekend's presidential elections.

    Social Democratic Party leader Alexander Kozulin, one of three defeated candidates in last Sunday's elections, said some 200 protesters had been arrested in a police raid at 4 a.m. local time (2 a.m. GMT).

    The opposition's main candidate, Alexander Milinkevich, said the opposition would press ahead with plans to hold a large-scale rally March 25. He said Thursday the demonstration would be peaceful, and demonstrators would not storm the presidential residence on March 25.

    March 25 is known as Freedom Day, an unofficial holiday marking the day when Belarus declared independence in 1918, and a traditional day for opposition demonstrations.

    The Central Election Committee announced Thursday the final results of Sunday's elections, won by incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko with 83% of the vote. Milinkevich garnered 6.1%, parliamentarian Sergei Gaidukevich 3.5%, and Kozulin 2.2%. Turnout was 92.9%, or more than 6.6 million people.

    Opposition candidates denounced the elections as neither free nor fair, and called for a re-run. Thousands of demonstrators came onto the streets to protest Monday, but numbers dwindled in the face of freezing temperatures.

    Election Committee chairwoman Lidiya Ermoshina said Lukashenko would be inaugurated March 31.

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