Fradkov Tips Voters in Belarus

The Associated Press

MINSK -- Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov met with top officials in Belarus on Tuesday and said he was sure voters in the country would make the "right choice" in the upcoming presidential election, which pits incumbent Alexander Lukashenko against opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich.

Meanwhile, a top campaign official for Milinkevich and the leader of a party supporting his presidential bid were detained after a rally in an eastern city.

"The people of Belarus will make the right choice that will strengthen cooperation between our countries," Fradkov said during a meeting with Lukashenko.

Amid fears of unrest, with opposition protests expected if the vote is considered unfair and the government vowing a firm response, Lukashenko told Fradkov: "We control the situation, it is absolutely normal."

Anatoly Lebedko, leader of the opposition United Civil Party, said he and Milinkevich's campaign chief in Mogilev, Vladimir Shantsev, were detained and forcibly taken to a police station after a rally in the eastern city that authorities said was illegal.

"Lukashenko has turned the election campaign into a meaningless exercise," Lebedko said by telephone. "The forceful actions against us demonstrate the lack of even minimal conditions for a presidential race."

Lebedko said authorities had at the last minute withdrawn approval for an indoors campaign meeting, forcing him to hold it on the street.