Opposition chief proclaims movement to "free" Belarus

MINSK (Reuters) - Belarus's opposition leader, addressing a rally protesting against the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko, proclaimed on Saturday the creation of a movement to "liberate" the country.

"I declare the creation of a Popular Movement for the Liberation of Belarus," Alexander Milinkevich told a crowd of several thousands massed in a park in the capital Minsk.

Milinkevich, heavily defeated by Lukashenko in a March 19 election that his supporters say was blatantly rigged, told the crowd in Minsk's Yanka Kupala park: "We are the ones who have won because more and more people are ceasing to be afraid."

"This was only a first storming of the regime. But we have to be realistic. We do not number 200,000 or 500,000. If we had, the regime itself would have taken to the air in its Boeings and flown off to another dictatorship.

"We will keep on working, but we will not put off the next storming for another five years. We will fight above all else for fair and honest elections," he declared.

The opposition rally switched to the park after being stopped by riot police from gathering on Minsk's central October Square, site of a tent camp cleared away by police on Friday.

In line with the pattern earlier in the week, police showed tolerance unusual for the tightly-controlled ex-Soviet state and refrained from using force to break up Saturday's rally.