‘Unauthorised picketing’: Minsk techie gets 15-day jail term for white-red-white flag on balcony

Trial of Illya Kvachenka. Minsk, 5 March 2021. Photo: Belsat

Software engineer Illya Kvachenka was detained on Thursday when he came to Zhdanovichy police department after being summoned.

A few months ago, Kvachenka, a resident of the apartment complex Pirs (‘Pier’), placed a white-red-white flag on his balcony. He repeatedly refused to remove it.

On March 2, traffic policemen confiscated Illya’s car from his own parking lot near the block of flats. A day later, they left a summons at his door. And when Kvachenka showed up at the police station, he was taken into custody.

Petition for adding white-red-white flag emoji collects almost 45K signatures

The policemen drew a protocol upon the Minsk resident for ‘unauthorised picketing’ (Article 24.23 of the Code of Administrative Offences). On March 5, his case was tried in Minsk district court; the defendant pleaded not guilty. Judge Anton Kolabau sentenced the man to 15 days of administrative arrest.

More than 50 people gathered in court to show support for Illya Kvachenka.

In 1991, the white-red-white flag and the emblem Pahonya (Pursuit) were adopted as national symbols of the country. However, they were official until the 1995 referendum, when on the tip from Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who is an ardent adherer of the USSR, they were replaced by the Soviet ones. For years, pro-Lukashenka officials have been linking the white-red-white colours to the opposition. Last December, the authorities warned that those Belarusian citizens who would hang out ‘unregistered symbols’ even on their windows or balconies might be penalised under administrative law.

Flag of rejection of Lukashism