Two weeks prior to Zapad-2017: Russian ‘polite people’ detain Belarus activist

Russian soldiers detained human rights activist and Belarusian citizen Natallya Haryachka on Friday, September 1.

The woman intended to visit her son who was conscripted into the Belarusian army. The young man is at a training ground not far from the town of Barysau. At the moment, one of the harrisons involved in the joint Russian-Belarusian war game ‘Zapad-2017’ is to be deployed there.

When Haryachka got out a minibus taxi in the forest, she was detained by Russians and then delivered to their Belarusian counterparts who put the arm on her.

Shortly before the arrest, the activist managed to take some pictures of Russian military vehicles. Officially, they should not be present in Belarus at the moment: Zapad -2017 war game is to start on September, 14.

Natallya Haryachka was taken to a police station. Having spent three days in custody, she was tried for using foul language and found guilty on Monday, September 4. She was sentenced to three days in jail but released as she had already served the term.

The Russian soldiers told her they had participated in military actions in Ukraine, the human rights activist said in an interview with Belsat TV. “They told me that the [Zapad-2017] war game had already begun,” the woman stressed.

During the latest presidential elections, the woman became known all over the country for her refusal to shake hands with the first and still the only Belarusian president Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Natallya Harachka was a member of a precinct electoral commission in Minsk.

Opposition politicians are convinced that the exercise poses a threat to the country’s independence: it is likely that the Russian army will not leave Belarus.

“We may wake up to a fact that Russia has appointed a governor-general and stripped Lukashenka of his duties for ‘health reasons’. Russia is notorious for using such scenarios,”former political prisoner Pavel Sevyarynets warns.

As the case of Natallya Haryachka shows, ‘green men’ from Russia have arrived in Belarus. And they seem to feel at home here.

The Belarusian-Russian strategic army exercise Zapad 2017 scheduled for September, 14-20 is supposed to demonstrate ‘persistence in efforts to ensure security of the two brotherly nations’. Such exercises are held in Belarus and Russia interchangeably every two years. In September, there will be about 10,000 troops involved in the exercise in the Belarusian territory (7,200 – the Belarusian Armed Forces and about 3,000 – the Russian Army).

At the same time, Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite and a number of European politicians believe that the ‘West-2017’ demonstrates the preparation of Belarus and Russia to the war with the West. In mid April, Oleksandr Turchynov, Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, stressed that the joint military exercise might become the preparation for an assault against Ukraine in September.

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