Voters in Belarus start going to polls

Early voting is underway in Belarus's Presidential election. But there is little expectation of change at the top. President Alexander Lukashenko is widely tipped to win a third term. He is popular with his own people but has been criticised by western powers, who claim he has clamped down on basic human rights. Lukashenko has also made it clear he will not tolerate dissention over the election, like Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" in 2004. The main opposition candidate, Alexander Milinkevich, has urged voters to stay away from the polls until the final ballot on Sunday. He claims early polls are easy to exploit and the results will be inflated. But election officials have dismissed his claims as "groundless". Fifteen years after the collapse of communism, there is still a distinctly Soviet feel to Belarus.

But the authorities here know they are being watched carefully for the duration of this election. Both the EU and the United States have threatened to push for sanctions if UN observers are not happy with the way the poll is conducted.