MINSK (AFX) - At least 6,000 people have rallied in Minsk's Oktyabrskaya Square in response to calls by the political opposition to protest against alleged vote-rigging in the Belarussian presidential election.
The peaceful crowd awaited the arrival of main opposition presidential contender Alexander Milinkevich, who is challenging the rule of President Alexander Lukashenko, widely criticised for his perceived authoritarian ways.
Practically no police were visible on the central square at the start of the rally, although busloads of police were seen lined up in side streets.
Hundreds of opposition activists were arrested ahead of today's poll, which Lukashenko looks set to win by a landslide.
Lakashenko, who has been in office since 1994, has vowed defiance in the face of Western pressure to reform his Soviet-style rule -- pressure that has risen with the enlargement of the European Union and NATO to Belarus' borders.