Belarus detains dozens of opposition activists

MINSK (AFP) – Dozens of opposition activists were being held in Belarus yesterday, including a former presidential candidate, following a political rally ahead of presidential elections this summer.

Tensions in the authoritarian ex-Soviet country have ratcheted up since authorities announced presidential elections would be held on August 9.

Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the country since 1994, has confirmed he will run again.

Belarusian rights groups denounced what they described as the political persecution of popular video blogger Sergei Tikhanovsky, who was arrested and accused of using violence against a police officer at a rally last Friday.

Rights group Viasna said some 50 people were detained at the demonstration. Footage from the rally, where Tikhanovsky’s wife Svetlana was gathering signatures for her presidential campaign, showed a police officer falling. The authorities launched a probe into police violence.