Volunteers and human rights activists report mass detentions that took place in the Belarusian capital city on March 25, the unofficial Freedom Day.
More than two hundred people were detained yesterday across the country, the Belarusian Interior Ministry said in its official Telegram channel. Human rights centre Viasna knows the names of 245 protesters arrested in various cities and towns, including 176 in Minsk.
According to the traffic police said it stopped 43 cars whose drivers honked their horns as part of the protest; eleven of them were detained and their vehicles were towed away, Viasna says.
At the same time, the Belarusian Interior Ministry states that the announced large-scale protests ‘did not happened. ‘Despite the police’s repeated warnings of the inadmissibility of holding illegal rallies, some citizens behaved brassily, provoking officers to counter-moves,’ the ministry’s press secretary said on Monday.
Freedom Day (Dzień Voli) is celebrated on March 25 to commemorate the creation on that date in 1918 of the Belarusian People’s Republic (BNR). It came into existence at the end of the First World War, when Bolshevik forces left Minsk and the city was occupied by German troops. On March 25, 1918 the Provisional Government (Rada) proclaimed the independence of the BNR. After the Red Army re-entered Minsk, the Communist government replaced the Rada; its members had to emigrate. Alyaksandr Lukashenka, his coterie and subordinates deny Freedom Day and keep barring the opposition forces from celebrating it.
As reported earlier, the opposition activists filed the application to Minsk City Executive Committee, asking them for permission to hold a march and a rally on the occasion of Freedom Day. However, they got a refusal from the city authorities which referred to the coronavirus pandemic and ‘calls from extremist Telegram channels’ to take to the streets. Moreover, KGB chairman Ivan Tsertsel said that ‘specific individuals were about to destabilise the situation in the country on 25-27 March.