The Minsk police detained two football fans who unfolded a white-red-white flag during Belarus-San-Marino match last Saturday.
When the policemen were showing one of the detainees out, his fellows responded with one of the hymns of Kyiv’s Maidan – the Warriors of Light song by the Belarusian band Lyapis Trubetskoy.
According to political commentator Artsyom Shraybman, in such cases the authorities are likely to punish fans to prove that that nothing has changed. They consider the historical flag of Belarus a threat, the expert believes. In his opinion, the flag is perceived as a symbol of protest. In contrast, no obstacles are put when another historical symbol of Belarus, Pahonya emblem, appears in the stands.
Moreover, Uladz Stashkevich, a paricipant in the weekend half-marathon in Minsk, was stopped as had the white-red-white flag. He was taken to a police station; the protocol states that the reason for detention was ‘running with a flag’.
On 19 September 1991, the white-red-white flag and emblem Pahonya (Pursuit) were officially recognized state symbols of the Republic of Belarus. Such resolution was passed by the Supreme Soviet of the 12th convocation after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But after the 1995 referendum, they were replaced by those reminiscent of Soviet symbolism. The white-red-white flag has been often associated with the opposition to the regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka.