Hundreds arrested in Minsk on ‘Day of Freedom’ (PHOTOS)

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Riot police officers patrol during a rally against President Alexander Lukashenko's rule and a controversial new tax on "spongers" - those who work less than six months a year - in Minsk on March 25.
Photo by AFP

A massive police operation in Minsk prevented a rally in Minsk on the occasion of Freedom Day in Belarus on March 25, with an estimated 400 people arrested by police.

Police in full riot gear blockaded central streets in the capital and swept the area, arresting people who had come to attend the rally, journalists covering it, and random passersby.

Earlier, police had detained several foreign journalists, and about 60 activists of an opposition group, Vesna-96. They were later released, Reuters reported.

Opposition groups in Belarus had planned to rally in the capital Minsk to protest against the so-called “parasite tax” – a tax on people who work fewer than 183 days a year – and falling living standards in the Soviet-style authoritarian police state.

Freedom Day is an unofficial holiday in Belarus that marks the day in 1918 when the Republic of Belarus was set up. The goverment does not recognise the holiday for the stated reason that the republic was set up by Germany.

The holiday in recent years has become a rallying date for opponents of the more than two decades of rule of Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko.

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