Key Opposition Figures Arrested In Belarus

Belarus -- Supporters of the oppositional presidential candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich hold a pre-election poster during the demonstration in his support in Minsk, 2 Mar. 2006

PRAGUE, March 15, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Belarusian police have arrested over 20 members of the campaign team of opposition leader Alyaksandr Milinkevich in the past 24 hours, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reports.

Among the detainees is Milinkevich's aide Anatol Lyabedzka, who was detained in Minsk on March 15.

The arrests come just days before presidential elections are held, on March 19.

Incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who is seeking a third term, warned on March 19 that the government will quell any unrest during or after the election.

Lukashenka accused activists from Georgia, Ukraine, and Russia of seeking to cause trouble.

Belarusian guards at the Lithuanian border said they have seized tents, sleeping bags, and warm clothes sent from the United States. The authorities say the items could be used to help protestors at postelection rallies.

The European Parliament and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on March 15 criticized Lukashenka's government for not allowing their observers to monitor the polls.