Thousands of anti-government activists held nationwide demonstrations in protest against the authoritarian rule of Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko Wednesday.

More than 4,000 demonstrators, mostly students, gathered in the capital Minsk, carrying the flag of the European Union, the banned red-white-red flag of 1918 Belarus, and banners proclaiming 'Independence.'

The demonstrators selected Will Day, on which the short-lived independent Belarusian republic was formed in 1918, as the day of national protest.

Those who gathered near the presidential residence formed more than-a-kilometer-long human chain and set fire to portraits of Lukashenko.

Police confiscated demonstrators' loudspeakers and prevented entry towards government buildings.

Opposition leaders were placed under effective house arrest.

Intelligence force arrested members of the Russian pro-democracy Oborony (Defense) youth group, who came from Moscow.

Belarusian opposition leader Aleksander Milinkevich vowed to remove Lukashenko from power by whatever means possible.

Lukashenko's government, citing a need to preserve stability usually represses public suggestions of change, but allows the Will Day gatherings as it supports Belarusian independence from other states.

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