Grim anniversary: Ploshcha participants still behind bars

Two years ago the ordinary presidential elections resulted in the crackdown of the peaceful demonstration and arrest of hundreds of protesters, passers-by and almost all the candidates for presidency.

According to the official figures, 90.65 % of voters took place in the elections. As the Central Election Commission reported, Aliaksandr Lukashenka won 79.65 % of votes whereas the rest of candidates did not even reach 3 %: Ryhor Kastusiou – 1.97 %, Ales Mikhalevich – 1.02 %, Uladzimir Niakliayeu – 1.78 %, Yaraslau Ramanchuk – 1.98 %, Vital Rymasheuski – 1.09 %, Andrey Sannikau – 2.43 %, Mikalai Statkevich – 1.05 %, Viktar Tsiareshchanka – 1.19 %, Dzmitry Vus – 0.39 %.

After the vote count

On the evening of December 19, 2010 thousands of electors doubting the official returns came to the centre of the city answering the call of the opposition candidates. Police let the protesters march from October Square to Independence Square (“Ploshcha”) and start a rally there. People were standing in the cold, carrying their traditional white-red-white flags banned by Lukashenka. They came, women and men, young and old, knowing what they were risking.

In an hour a group of people tried to enter a government building and broke some glass, in what certainly looks, in all of the video available, like a provocation. Police appeared, as if on signal, and cleared the square. Hundreds of participants were severely beaten, including young girls and senior citizens. According to the official report 639 people were arrested. Later president Aliaksandr Lukashenka and then-Minister of Interior Anatol Kuliashou declared that it was them who were running the demonstration’s dispersal.

More than forty persons were targeted in the investigation of mass riot in Minsk, six ex-presidential candidates being accused. Five of them – Uladzimir Niakliayeu, Mikalai Statkevich, Andrey Sannikau, Dzmitry Vus, Vital Rymasheuski – had to face the trial. They were found guilty of participation and organization of mass riots and sentenced to up to six years of imprisonment or restriction of liberty.

The sixth runner for the office, Ales Mikhalevich, managed to flee abroad after being released from the KGB predetention centre under recognizance not to leave.

Political prisoners

At the moment ex-presidential candidate Mikalai Statkevich is still behind bars; Dzmitry Vus and Andrey Sannikau were pardoned by Lukashenka and released.

Moreover, Zmitser Dashkevich and Eduard Lobau are also serving their terms. Young Front activists were detained shortly before the elections and accused of beating the two inhabitants of Minsk. According to the opposition members this whole issue had a political character. The goal was to prevent the two men from participating in the demonstration to be held the following day.

Pavel Seviarynets, ex-presidential candidate Vital Rymasheuski’s aide, was arrested on December 20, 2010 and later sentenced to 3 years of restriction of liberty. At the moment the political prisoner is in the village of Kuplin (Brest region) where he does labouring jobs.

Vasil Parfiankou was found guilty and sentenced to four years in high-security prison but later pardoned by the president and released. However, on May 29, 2012 he was admitted guilty of violation of preventive control regime and now the activist is serving a six-month term.

The European Union and the United States did not accept the elections and repeatedly call the Belarusian authorities to release the political prisoners. It is interesting that according to CIS observers the presidential elections were fair and transparent.


See also