Three thousand protesters took to the streets of Belarus's capital Minsk on Thursday evening in what was the largest opposition demonstration in two years. The protest was called following the arrest of an opposition leader, who was beaten and detained after trying to attend a rally held by President Alexander Lukashenko.
The protest went ahead without official permission. Riot police allowed the protesters to march a short time before blocking them off.
The tension comes two weeks before presidential elections. President Lukashenko has been in power since 1992. In his televised address on Thursday, he warned western critics to stay out of Belarus's affairs. Belarus opposition leader Alexander Kozulin was arrested as he tried to attend Lukashenko's speech. Officers tried to stop journalists from filming and scuffles broke out.
The EU says it is deeply worried by developments and says it is ready to take measures if the elections are not conducted in a democratic manner. The arrest and demonstration came a day after the Belarus secret service said it had thwarted an opposition plot to stage a coup. The opposition has denied any involvement.