Belarus arrested activists and blocked social networking sites on Sunday to thwart protests on its national day as President Alexander Lukashenko warned opponents against considering any uprising. The opposition had hoped to drown out Lukashenko’s speech in front of a military parade with ironic hand-clapping but failed to perform any significant protest during the keynote Independence Day address. However they have defiantly called for a “silent” evening demonstration in Minsk to protest Lukashenko’s authoritarian rule, even though past events have been broken up by the security forces.

Around 20 people were arrested ahead of Lukashenko’s speech including Pavel Sverdlov, the correspondent for EU-funded and Poland-based Belarussian radio Evroradio, said Nastasya Loiko of the Vyasna (Spring) rights group. The main page of Internet-based opposition group “Revolution through the Social Network” on a Russian social networking site was blocked in what the opposition said was a clear bid by the authorities to thwart their protests. “The authorities are making a titanic effort to break the wave of civil protests,” wrote opposition website Charter 97.

July 4th, 2011 - 15:34 UTC
by A.Sennitt
(Source: AFP)