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Saturday, 8 September, 2001, 13:13 GMT 14:13 UK
Belarus gays parade in election fever
gays marching
All smiles for the big parade
Gays in Belarus have exploited the heavy presence of foreign journalists covering Sunday's presidential elections to stage a parade on the streets of Minsk.

It is something the citizens of the Belarus capital do not normally see amongst its straight avenues and monuments to Lenin.

Gays out in the open
Gays out in the open
Around 300 people took part, marching under the gay movement's rainbow flag.

Balloons, whistles, drums, masks, fancy dress and wigs were also in evidence.

Belarus police stood on the sidelines, a little bemused by the spectacle.

Accusations

The organisers said the police would have broken up the parade very quickly under normal circumstances.

Flying the gay flag
Flying the gay flag
Passers-by were not so restrained however. "I blame the West", said one middle-aged man, "these people do not and cannot exist in Belarus".

But the organisers of the parade, which snaked its way from the parliament building, claimed that all the marchers were local.

It took place under the slogan "We choose love". One gay argued that the parade was in protest at people being told who they could and could not love.

The march finished at President Lukashenko's residence.

Life for Belarus' gays is likely to return to normality after the election.

Regardless of who wins, neither the authorities nor the opposition show much understanding for gay rights.

See also:

30 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Belarus
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