Protesters in Homiel
Friday’s protest in Minsk became the biggest opposition action since 2011 while the protests on Sunday were an unusually widespread expression of discontent in Belarus, Associated Press reports.
On February 19, protests were held in five Belarusian cities. The most sizable action took place in Homel where 3,000 – 4,000 persons gathered.
Protests in Homiel, February 19.
They focused on the 2-year-old ‘anti-sponging’ law, but demonstrators also expressed dissatisfaction with the government of Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the ‘authoritarian former Soviet republic’, the news agency stresses.
Decree Nr 3 signed by president Lukashenka in April, 2015 established the obligation of the citizens of Belarus, foreign citizens permanently residing in Belarus, stateless persons, who did not participate in the financing of public spending or participated in such financing less than 183 days (six months – ed.) in the past year, to pay a fee of 20 basic units (appr. $230).
Minsk: ‘Basta! It’s Over!’
The legislation on ‘social parasitism’ came into effect in 2015 and has gone down badly with the Belarussian public at a time when many are struggling to make ends meet after more than two years of economic recession, Reuters says.
“Seeking to improve ties with the EU and lessen Belarus’s dependence on Russia, Lukashenka has over the past year heeded calls from the West to show greater lenience towards political opposition. <…> The country has been in recession since 2015 due to a slump in oil prices and contagion from an economic crisis in neighboring Russia, with which its economy is closely tied and where many Belarusians work in order to send money home,” the article reads.
Friday’s rally in Minsk in one minute
The protests were unauthorized but appeared to be tolerated by the authorities with no reports of arrests, Deutsche Welle notes. According to the online publication, Belarusian tax authorities say around 470,000 people are liable for the tax, but fewer than 10 percent have paid, generating just $6 million in extra revenue for the government.