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Belarusian police detain doctors ahead of anti-government rally

MOSCOW, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Belarusian police on Saturday detained more than 30 doctors who had planned to take part in an anti-government protest in the capital Minsk, a prominent rights group said.

Human rights group Viasna said 35 doctors who had gathered to take part in a rally of medical professionals were detained and taken to police stations.

Natalia Ganusevich, a spokeswoman for the Minsk police, confirmed that some of the demonstrators had been detained and called on the population not to take part in unauthorized protests, TASS news agency reported.

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko is facing a weeks-long political crisis in which tens of thousands of Belarusians have regularly taken to the streets of Minsk calling for him to resign.

The opposition has accused Lukashenko of rigging a presidential election in August that granted him a sixth term.

Lukashenko, a former collective farm manager in power since 1994, has rejected that accusation and ignored the opposition’s calls for him to step down.

The 66-year-old has faced strong criticism from the medical community and general population for having resisted calls for strict lockdown measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

He publicly dismissed fears about COVID-19 as a “psychosis” and recommended remedies such as drinking vodka, taking saunas and playing ice hockey.

The former Soviet country of 9.5 million has so far reported 105,283 COVID-19 cases. (Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Clelia Oziel)

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