Some 200 people took part in a demonstration that opposition groups staged in downtown Minsk on Monday evening to demand an international investigation into the disappearances of four opponents of Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
Former Interior Minister Yury Zakharanka, former MP Viktar Hanchar, businessman Anatol Krasowski and journalist Dzmitry Zavadski went missing in 1999-2000. They are widely believed to have been abducted and murdered by a government-run death squad.
Demonstrators, including poet Uladzimir Nyaklyayew, leader of the "Tell the Truth!" campaign; Viktar Ivashkevich of the Belarusian Popular Front; Anatol Lyabedzka, chairman of the United Civic Party; Andrey Sannikaw, leader of a group called European Belarus and a former deputy foreign minister, and his wife Iryna Khalip; and prominent human rights defender Hary Pahanyayla, formed a "human chain" along Independence Avenue in the square in front of the National Academy of Sciences, displaying images of the missing persons.
Using megaphones police officers warned that the demonstration was unsanctioned and its participants might be arrested.
The organizers initially wanted to stage a march from the National Academy of Sciences to Liberty Square, where a rally would be held, but after the Minsk city government denied permission, the organizers decided to limit the demonstration to the formation of a "chain of concerned people" near the National
Academy of Sciences and the displaying of images of the missing.
The demonstration lasted for about 40 minutes. After participants rolled up their images and signs and were about to leave the scene, plainclothesmen grabbed European Belarus activist Yawhen Afnahel, one of the official organizers. Police in plain clothes also attempted to arrest a few more people but retreated in the face of resistance from other participants.
Observing the demonstration were representatives of the embassies of the United States and member countries of the European Union, including Ferenc Kontra, the ambassador of Hungary, which performs the functions of the EU's local presidency on behalf of Belgium.