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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

100 Blast Russia at Embassy in Minsk

APTwo boys lighting candles Sunday outside the Russian Embassy in Minsk to protest Russia's support of Lukashenko.
MINSK -- About 100 Belarussian opposition activists rallied at the Russian Embassy in Minsk to protest the Kremlin's support for President Alexander Lukashenko's re-election last month.

The protesters stood silently for about 40 minutes late Sunday, holding candles. Police took down their names but did not try to disperse them.

Participants in the protest said the rally was intended to show solidarity with opposition activists jailed by the government and to express their disdain for the Kremlin's support for Lukashenko.

"This is an action of solidarity with those who are in jail," said Yekaterina Korbut, a 21-year old student who took part in the protest. "Repression is going on with Russia's tacit content."

Another participant in Sunday's protest, Igor Rusnov, a 22-year old web designer who had spent 15 days in jail for taking part in the post-election protest, criticized President Vladimir Putin for backing Lukashenko.

"Putin is responsible for what is going on in Belarus," he said.

Irina Khalip, an opposition activist who helped organize the protest, said that Western leaders should cancel their participation in the summit of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations, which is hosted by Russia this year. The summit is to be held in July in St. Petersburg. "Putin can't shake hands with leaders of democratic nations and support Lukashenko with another hand," Khalip said.

 Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Monday that Russia would hold joint military exercises with Belarus in June, Reuters reported.

Ivanov said the exercise was part of a plan to revive a common air defense system in the two countries.