Tens of thousands of opponents of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko have gathered in Minsk to protest against disputed elections.
The “March for Freedom”, planned for Sunday afternoon, comes amid growing anger over alleged poll-rigging and police violence at subsequent protests.
Meanwhile, in an address to a smaller crowd of several thousand, Mr Lukashenko blasted opponents as “rats”.
He called on supporters to defend their country and independence.
The rallies were taking place after Russia agreed to offer security assistance in the case of external military threats to Belarus. It emerged that Mr Lukashenko had twice spoken to President Vladimir Putin over the weekend.
The long-time Belarus leader also voiced concerns over Nato military exercises taking place in neighbouring Poland and Lithuania and launched into a tirade against the Western military alliance.
The unrest erupted after Mr Lukashenko claimed a landslide victory in last Sunday’s election, the result of which has been condemned amid widespread allegations of vote-rigging.
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