Signatures for the dismissal of the cabinet and the abolition of a newly imposed tax on motor vehicle owners were collected in Minsk on January, 5.
Two opposition politicians, Anatol Liabedzka, leader of the United Civic Party, and Viktar Karniayenka, co-chairman of the Campaign for Fair Elections, spent about an hour in Yakub Kolas Square, asked passers-by to sign the petition and managed to collect about 100 signatures.
The action was lasting from 12.00 to 13.00. An unprecedented number of plainclothesmen and police officers in uniform were watching it but did not interfere.. At least 10 plainclothed persons followed the oppositionists from one part of the square to another, with some of them filming every move by the politicians. Several traffic police cars and police buses were seen parked near the square.
“More people would probably sign the petition in the absence of police and cameras. But even under such conditions people queued up to sign the petition,” Mr Liabedzka said. It is the third time they have been collecting the signatures, and that is why there have been thousands of them already, he added.
According to Mr Karniayenka, they are not aiming at having, for example, a million. “This is rather a demonstrational, symbolic act showing that people are not afraid to openly express disagreement with the authorities’ actions,” he stressed.
Earlier this month, Messrs Liabedzka and Karniayenka were banned by the city authorities from holding a ‘car run’ against the tax on January 5. The event would have echoed a protest staged by motorists in downtown Minsk in December’
The annual tax is to be collected from all owners of motor vehicles, including both legal entities and private individuals. The tax would range from three to 25 times the Base Rate (currently 130,000 rubels or $14) depending on the weight and type of the vehicle and on whether the owner is a private individual or a legal entity.
Three protest actions ‘Stop Car Tax’ were announced; only the first one took place. The rest were thwarted by the authorities.
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