Belarus is gearing up for a presidential election on Sunday amid fears of violence after the government warned against dissent.
After 12 years in power, President Alexander Lukashenko is widely expected to secure a third mandate in a vote many in the West already denounce as rigged.
Opposition leaders Alexander Milinkevitch and Alexander Kozulin have called on crowds to abandon their fears and take to the streets peacefully after the ballot to demand a fair vote. Neither of the previous presidential elections in the former Soviet republic have been recognised as democratic by the European watchdog the OSCE.
Both Brussels and Washington have voiced concern over the fairness of the vote in Belarus – the European Union has said any violence against peaceful protests would trigger a strong international reaction.
The warnings follow statements by president Lukashenko who said there would be no coup d’etat in his country and has vowed to wring the necks of rivals who violate public order.
Some observers fear outbreaks of violence after polls close on Sunday.