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MINSK, May 1. /TASS/. Belarus’ opposition has taken to the streets in central Minsk. The Belarusian National Congress opposition movement said that several dozens of protesters, including former presidential candidate Vladimir Neklyaev, are demanding better life conditions for working people and release of several opposition figures from prisons.
"On International Workers' Day, we demand that the so-called presidential decree on ‘social parasites’ should be canceled. We do not accept those norms of life and labor that the authorities are imposing on us. The Belarussians are ready for changes. We demand political prisoners’ release," said Vladimir Neklyaev.
Police are warning the protesters that the rally has not been sanctioned and force could be used unless the participants obey law enforcement’s orders.
Nikolai Statkevich, an opposition politician and a leader of the Belarusian National Congress, had called on the nation to hit the streets on May 1, but was detained on April 28 and arrested for five days. Nevertheless, his associates were staunch to hold a May Day rally in Oktyabryskaya Square in Minsk.
Opposition has staged demonstrations in other cities but they were not numerous, since police had detained opposition leaders beforehand.
Rallies have been staged across Belarus in protest against the presidential law "on social parasites" from February 17 to the end of March. Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko signed a law, dubbed in the press as the "law against social parasites," in April 2015. The law requires all those who work less than 183 days a year to pay a levy of more than 200 U.S. dollars for "lost taxes" to help fund welfare policies. The law sparked off mass protests across the country.