A Belarusian opposition group on Wednesday protested a Russian proposal toabsorb Belarus, while the country's authoritarian president called the plan"insulting."About 20 members of the Zubr, or Bison, youth movement gathered in a Minskpark, where they unfurled a banner reading "Independent Belarus lives!" andtore up pictures of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The group wasprotesting Putin's suggestion last week that the two countries couldswiftly merge, with Russia effectively absorbing its western neighbor.Russia and Belarus for years have been awkwardly constructing a union oftheir two countries, but the unification has remained largely symbolic. OnAug. 14, Putin unexpectedly detailed a scenario under which a referendum onunification would take place in both countries in May. If approved,parliamentary elections for a single state could be held in December 2003and presidential elections in March 2004, Putin said. The dates he gavecoincide with scheduled elections in Russia. Belarusian President AlexanderLukashenko, previously the main supporter of the union, on Wednesdayreiterated his stance that Putin's proposal was unacceptable, the RussiaJournal reported..
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