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About 1,000 Belarusian protesters decry planned Russian air base

  • One of the Belarusian opposition leaders Nikolai Statkevich talks to supporters during opposition rally against the deployment of Russian military bases in Belarus, in Minsk, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015. Belarus declared independence from Russia in 1991.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

    One of the Belarusian opposition leaders Nikolai Statkevich talks to supporters during opposition rally against the deployment of Russian military bases in Belarus, in Minsk, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015. Belarus declared independence from Russia in 1991.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)  (The Associated Press)

  • A demonstrator holds a placard depicting Russia's President Vladimir Putin during opposition rally against the deployment of Russian military bases in Belarus, in Minsk, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

    A demonstrator holds a placard depicting Russia's President Vladimir Putin during opposition rally against the deployment of Russian military bases in Belarus, in Minsk, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)  (The Associated Press)

  • A demonstrator holds a placard depicting Russia's President Vladimir Putin during opposition rally against the deployment of Russian military bases in Belarus, in Minsk, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

    A demonstrator holds a placard depicting Russia's President Vladimir Putin during opposition rally against the deployment of Russian military bases in Belarus, in Minsk, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)  (The Associated Press)

About 1,000 opposition activists have protested Russia's plans to establish a military air base in Belarus, saying it would turn the former Soviet republic into a Kremlin "vassal."

They claim the base would add to regional tensions already heightened by the conflict in Ukraine, and make it impossible for Belarus to maintain neutrality between Russia and the West.

Belarus borders Russia, Ukraine and three members of the European Union and NATO: Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has refrained from commenting on Russian President Vladimir Putin's initiative to establish the base. Analysts say he has little choice but to accept it, since his government depends on cheap energy supplies from Russia.

Sunday's protest came one week before a presidential election expected to give Lukashenko a fifth term.