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Strongman ruler Alexander Lukashenko is facing his biggest challenge in years after Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a 37-year-old English teacher and translator, drew big crowds of supporters in the ex-Soviet nation of 9.5 million people.
Lukashenko, in power since 1994 and sometimes called Europe's last dictator, jailed several key opponents ahead of the vote including Tikhanovskaya's husband, a popular blogger.
He has accused the opposition of planning unrest after polls close.
Police checkpoints were set up today at several entrances to the Minsk, AFP reporters and witnesses said, including with armoured vehicles and armed soldiers.
Metal barriers were erected around several administrative buildings and there was a strong police presence in Minsk.
Residents of the capital said there were also difficulties connecting to the internet, in particular opposition-linked media sites, as well as problems using encrypted message services such as Telegram and VPN virtual networks. — AFP
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