The Minsk City Executive Committee has granted permission to stage an annual “Charnobylski Shlyakh” (Path of Chernobyl) demonstration in Minsk on April 26 to mark the 27th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident.
However, the city government told the organizers that they would have to hold a final rally in People’s Friendship Park in Bangalore Square on the outskirts of Minsk, not at Kurapaty, a Stalin-era massacre site just outside the Minsk Beltway, Aliaksei Yanukevich, chairperson of the Belarusian People’s Front, told journalists.
In addition, the city government changed the time of the demonstration without even consulting the organizing committee, Mr Yanukevich said. Officials told the organizing committee that a march to Kurapaty along the proposed route would be in violation of the Mass Events Law, which bans demonstrations within less than 200 meters from subway stations and public buildings, he added.
The Charnobylski Shlyakh demonstration has been staged by opposition forces in Minsk every year since 1988. A crowd of up to 50,000 took part in the demonstration on the 10th anniversary of the 1986 Chernobyl accident, with participants overturning cars and clashing with riot police. Dozens were injured and more than 200 were arrested. About 10,000 people took part in the demonstration on the 20th anniversary in 2006. In 2011, the Minsk city government banned a march along Surhanava Street and therefore the demonstration was limited to a rally near Bangalore Square with some 500 people in attendance. Last year’s Charnobylski Shlyakh demonstration drew up to 800 people. At least 10 people were arrested during or following the event, which had been sanctioned by the Minsk City Executive Committee. Six of them, including two journalists, were subsequently sentenced to jail terms.