Police in Belarus have arrested an opposition leader and another activist as demonstrators for the second day try to prevent authorities from removing wooden crosses at a site near Minsk where tens of thousands of people were executed under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

The Kurapaty woods near the capital have a strong significance for the beleaguered opponents of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko. He complained last month about the crosses that opposition supporters had set up there.

Fifteen other demonstrators were arrested Thursday after police closed off the woods and workers began removing the crosses. Pavel Sevyarinets of the Belarusian Christian Democracy party and another demonstrator were arrested Friday in a similar action.

Soviet secret police carried out mass executions at Kurapaty, with its victims estimated to range from 30,000 to 200,000 people.