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Opposition supporters in Belarus are holding a mass rally in the capital Minsk, two weeks after a disputed election gave President Alexander Lukashenko another term in office.

People have been flowing in the central square, despite heavy police presence.

The protesters say Mr Lukashenko stole the election and want him to resign.

The president has vowed to crush the unrest and has previously blamed the dissent on unnamed “foreign-backed revolutionaries”.

Recent protests have been met with a crackdown in which at least four people have died. Demonstrators said they had been tortured in prisons.

According to official results, Mr Lukashenko – who has ruled Belarus for 26 years – won more than 80% of the vote in the 9 August election and opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya 10%.

There were no independent observers, and the opposition says there was massive vote rigging.

Ms Tikhanovskaya, who was forced to flee to neighbouring Lithuania the day after the election, vowed to “stand till the end” in the protests.

1598196341 887 Belarus opposition holds mass rally in Minsk despite ban

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Media captionSvetlana Tikhanovskaya said she doesn’t think she’s the next leader of Belarus

What is happening in Minsk?

Tens of thousands of people – from the elderly to those with small children – gathered in Independence Square on Sunday. Many were carrying red and white flags or white flowers, and chanted “freedom” and anti-government slogans.

Riot police took up positions near the square, with loudspeakers blaring warnings that the protest was illegal.

The defence ministry issued a statement invoking Belarus’s sacrifices during World War Two, and saying the army would take over the protection of war memorials.

This weekend’s rally follows the country’s biggest protest in modern history last Sunday, when hundreds of thousands filled the streets.

1598196341 255 Belarus opposition holds mass rally in Minsk despite ban

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Media captionWhat lies behind the Belarus protests?

Strike action in key factories across the country is also keeping up the pressure on the president.

What has Lukashenko said?

The 65-year-old president insists he won the election fairly and has ruled holding another poll. On Saturday he accused Nato of “trying to topple the authorities” and install a new president in Minsk.

He said he was moving troops to the country’s western borders to counter a Nato build-up in Poland and Lithuania, and vowed to “defend the territorial integrity of our country”.

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President Alexander Lukashenko told his officials to prepare forces on the border with Poland

Nato responded by saying it posed “no threat to Belarus or any other country”, and had “no military build-up in the region”.

“The regime is trying to divert attention from Belarus’s internal problems at any cost with totally baseless statements about imaginary external threats,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda told AFP news agency on Saturday.

Mr Lukashenko has also accused an opposition council – set up by Ms Tikhanovskaya to organise peaceful transition – of trying to seize power. Two of its members were questioned by police on Friday.

Belarus – the basic facts

Where is Belarus? It has Russia – the former dominant power – to the east and Ukraine to the south. To the north and west lie EU and Nato members Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

Why does it matter? Like Ukraine, this nation of 9.5 million is caught in rivalry between the West and Russia. President Lukashenko, an ally of Russia, has been referred to as “Europe’s last dictator”. He has been in power for 26 years, keeping much of the economy in state hands, and using censorship and police crackdowns against opponents.

What’s going on there? Now there is a huge opposition movement, demanding new, democratic leadership and economic reform. Mr Lukashenko’s supporters say his toughness has kept the country stable.

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Nagorno-Karabakh: The boy who swapped his piano for a gun

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The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is over, but some families are still waiting for news of their missing relatives.

Bodies are still being counted and identified, and there is no clear information on what has happened to the missing.

Twenty-two-year-old Soghomon was fighting on the Armenian frontline against Azerbaijan. The last time his family heard from him was 1 October.

He was a soldier, but also an artist and a talented piano player.

His father and sister say they can’t give up hope that he will return.

Video by: Sofia Bettiza, Gabriel Chaim and Aren Melikyan

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Afghan car bomb kills at least 40 soldiers

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An attacker detonated an explosive packed vehicle in front of a security base in the Deh Yak district of the province.

According to a statement from the Afghan Ministry of Defense, the attacker was confronted by security forces as he tried to enter the base. No group has claimed responsibility yet.

The blast targeted a compound of the public protection force, a wing of the Afghan security forces, local officials told Reuters. It damaged civilian residences around the compound, and there could be more casualties from there, they said.

Interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian confirmed that there had been a car bomb blast but did not provide further information on the target or possible casualties.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, when contacted by Reuters, did not confirm or deny responsibility.

Afghanistan has seen a spate of car bombings over the last few months, despite peace talks being under way between negotiation teams of the insurgent Taliban and the government in the Qatari capital of Doha.

Violence in the country, at war for two decades, remains unacceptably high, foreign governments and institutions say, calling for an immediate ceasefire between the Afghan government and Taliban.
Afghan President orders resumption of offensive operations against the Taliban in blow to Trump's deal

Another bombing on Sunday, in the eastern province of Zabul, targeting a top provincial official, killed at least one person and injured 23, said Gul Islam Syaal, the spokesman for the province’s governor.

Haji Ata Jan Haqbayan, head of the provincial council of Zabul, suffered minor injuries in the attack on his convoy.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack on Haqbayan, an outspoken critic of the Taliban.

The Trump administration’s peace deal with the Taliban was dealt a blow in May as the Afghan government announced it was resuming offensive operations against the insurgent group following a spate of deadly terrorist attacks.

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Incoming GOP congresswoman to take aim at AOC with conservative ‘squad’

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Malliotakis, who frequently attacked Ocasio-Cortez during her campaign against Democratic Rep. Max Rose, took aim again at her New York counterpart when asked about the future of the Republican Party.

“I think one of the reasons why we were so motivated to run is seeing the Democratic women being elected in 2018 that don’t necessarily reflect our values, particularly those who are self-described socialists,” Malliotakis said. “I think there’s just a stark contrast between what we’re offering and what people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are offering. And that’s something that needs to be debated in Washington.”

House Republicans more than doubled the number of women in their conference in November, bringing the number to at least 28 from 13. Democrats, who added a record number of women to their ranks during the 2018 election, have at least 89.

A number of House races still remain uncalled, including New York Republican Claudia Tenney’s challenge against Rep. Anthony Brindisi; Tenney’s lead has narrowed significantly to just 13 votes as of Friday.

Malliotakis, who will be the only Republican to represent New York City in Congress, credited House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Liz Cheney for their efforts in recruiting “qualified women who have something to share with the American people” for the gains.

“What we stand for are freedom, liberty. We love this nation. We want to see it prevail. We want to see it remain the land of opportunity, what has, in essence, attracted millions of immigrants from around the world, to pursue that American dream,” Malliontakis said. “Somebody like me, daughter of a Cuban refuge, I want to be there to be a part of the discussion, debate and provide a counterview.”

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