Belarus police break up opposition rally

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MINSK, Mar 24 (Reuters) Belarussian police today broke up a five-day-old opposition rally mounted in protest against President Alexander Lukashenko's re-election, detaining about 200 demonstrators.

A Reuters cameraman at the scene said crack police units surrounded the demonstrators in a central Minsk square, loaded them on to trucks and took them away.

The demonstrators had rejected police calls to leave October Square.

One of the detained protesters called Reuters by mobile phone and said they were being taken to a pre-trial detention centre in the capital.

The unprecedented protest in the former Soviet state began on Sunday after Lukashenko was declared the landslide winner of elections branded as flawed by international monitors.

Despite his 12 years of Soviet-style rule that has made him a pariah in the West, Lukashenko is genuinely popular among the 10 million Belarussians for having ensured relative political and economic stability.

Reuters DH VP0745

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