Belarus has staged dozens of protests before the election




140 people were detained Saturday during opposition protests in Belarus, and President Alexander Lukashenko attacked critics before the election, according to the Vyas rights group.


Since 1994, 65-year-old Lukashenko has been seeking a sixth term in the August presidential election.

Opposition figures struggled to get to the ballot, and many opponents - including Lukashenko's strongest electoral opponent, Victor Berberico - were jailed in Runup for an Aug. 9 vote.

Friday is the last day for candidates willing to challenge the moment, seeking a vote-access signature from supporters.

Lukashenko's opponents are expected to hand over their registration documents on Saturday.

On Friday evening, people lined the streets of the capital Minsk and other cities in support of Lukashenko's critics.

Popular opposition candidate Valerie Sepalco joined the protests, but was canceled by police.

As a result, about 140 people - including 80 people - are in custody in Minsk, the Vyas rights group said on Saturday.

Searches were also conducted in Bobrisk, Vitebsk, Brest, Mogilev and other cities.

The rights group said it hit five people, including a minor.

Several journalists, including foreign journalists including Radio Free Europe's Belarusian service reporter, were taken into custody, led by plain-clothes officers while making live video.

Some were released late Friday, while others are awaiting a court hearing.

Raiers was among those detained in Minsk before the release of the freelance video journalist for the new agency, an agency spokesman said.

The UK embassy in Minsk tweeted: "It is not acceptable to detain large numbers of journalists and peaceful protesters in Belarus this evening."

US embassy Lukashenko urged the government to "maintain international commitments to respect fundamental freedoms."

- 'Anyone but it' -

Analysts say the protests against Lukashenko, which has been relatively unimpressive for almost three decades, have been relatively uncommon.

"The society is polarized," independent analyst Valery Karbalevich told AFP, adding that many want Lukashenko to give up power.

"People's motto today is: 'Anyone but me.'

Most opposition activists gathered at least 100,000 signatures from supporters to stand in the polls.

56-year-old former banker Lukashenko's main rival Baberico has collected 435,000 signatures, his aides say.

Barbaresco was arrested Thursday on suspicion of financial crimes, and his government announced the next day that it would block a foreign coup for a popular uprising in Belarus.

Barbaresco had previously led the Belgian subsidiary, Belgrazprombank, to the Russian energy giant Gazprom.

A total of 20 people have been taken into custody in connection with the investigation into the BelgaumPrombank. Authorities say Babarico was in cahoots with "puppets" from Moscow.

After Babriko's detention, authorities have put other critics in jail, including prominent opposition politician Mikola Statkovich and prominent vulgar Sergei Tikhanovsky, who refused to vote.

In particular, the 41-year-old Tikanovsky symbolizes the insult to Lukashenko - "Cockroaches" --- and an attractive new slogan - "Stop cockroaches".

Since then, many Lukashenko critics have protested with flip-flops on their hands.

International Organization and the War Watchdog, the Organization for Security and Cooperation since 1995, has not considered elections in Belarus free and fair.

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