Protesters urge Belarus to reduce its dependence on Russia

AP News
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Posted: Jul 03, 2017 10:49 AM

MINSK, Belarus (AP) — About 100 people have protested in Belarus, calling for the former Soviet republic to reduce its military dependence on Russia and seek closer ties with Europe.

The protest Monday in Minsk, the capital, came as Belarus marked its annual Independence Day celebration with a large military parade.

Opposition leader Nikolai Statkevich told people at the rally "this criminal government is dragging Belarus into dangerous Russian games." Demonstrators said they wanted the government to cancel a joint Russia-Belarus military exercise in Belarus planned for September.

While the demonstration was unsanctioned, it went on peacefully. Opposition rallies earlier this year saw hundreds of arrests by riot police.

Despite occasional economic spats, Belarus has been a close military and political ally of Russia since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.