Several hundred people have marched in Minsk amid a heavy police presence in the city to mark the "Day of Freedom", anniversary of the first establishment of an independent state of Belarus in March 1918.
The event on March 24 commemorates the 95th anniversary of the establishment of an independent state of Belarus. The rally was organized by several opposition groups, including the Movement for Freedom, the United Citizens Party, and the Belarus Popular Front.
The celebration began at 12.00 on March 24, 2012 in Minsk. The city authorities permitted demonstrators to march from the Independence Avenue to Bangalore Square and hold a rally there (14.00).
Protesters carried historic white-and-red Belarusian flags, which were banned after a referendum in 1995 that allowed authorities to create new national symbols, including a new flag.
Some protesters carried portraits of political prisoners and demanded their release from prison.
Belarusian authorities had approved the rally but said participants should not carry the old Belarusian flag.
Freedom Day is an unofficial holiday in Belarus, which is celebrated on March 25 to commemorate the creation on that date in 1918 of the Belarusian National Republic (BNR). It came into existence at the end of the First World War, when Bolshevik forces left Minsk and the city was occupied by German troops. On March 25, 1918 the Provisional Government (Rada) proclaimed the independence of the BNR. After the Red Army re-entered Minsk, the Communist government replaced the Rada; its members had to emigrate.
The current regime denies Freedom Day and often prevents the opposition forces from celebrating it. This year the authorities have prohibited using of unofficial national symbols (white-red-white flag and anthem “Pahonia”) during the event.
RFE/RL’s Belarus Service reports that at least eight activists were arrested.