Protesters face charges after Minsk rally

Minsk, Belarus, Mar. 28 (UPI) -- About 30 participants in an unauthorized Belarussian opposition rally were scheduled to appear in a Minsk court Monday, the Interfax news agency reported.

They will face charges of violating rules for marches and pickets.

Opposition parties held a rally in downtown Minsk on Friday to mark the 87th anniversary of the establishment of the short-lived pre-Soviet Belarus National Republic. The crowd of approximately 1,000 called for the resignation of President Alexander Lukashenko.

Police quickly moved in on the protesters as they gathered near the presidential palace, dispersing the crowd by force. Some demonstrators reportedly were beaten with truncheons by police.

Opposition leaders and human rights activists criticized the Minsk police's harsh crackdown on the demonstration. They said it was a sign that Lukashenko is afraid of popular demonstrations similar to those that led to regime changes in Georgia, Ukraine and, most recently, Kyrgyzstan -- like Belarus, all former republics of the Soviet Union.