Human rights defender Uladzimir Vyalichkin was found guilty of taking part in the so-called feeding the pigeons, an unauthorized mass event that took place in Brest on February, 10. More than a year ago, Brest residents started protesting against the construction of a hazardous battery factory by the iPower company. As the city authorities outlaw protests, people do not make speeches or chant any slogans – they just feed pigeons or carry baloons.
Judge Dzmitry Shuryn imposed a fine of 385.5 Belarusian rubles (about $190) on Vyalichkin.
The activist was summoned to the police station on February, 16. When he arrived, the police officers drew up a protocol upon Vyalichkin and put him under arrest, human rights defender Uladzimir Maley told HRC Viasna.
“[He] was critical of the authorities, which attracted citizens’ attention,” they said in the protocol.
Moreover, on the same day, another protester was detained and placed in pre-trial detention centre. According to the newspaper Brestskaya gazeta, Vital Kazak was charged with organizing an illegal mass event (Art. 23.34 of the Administrative Code) and heavily fined.
Notably, on February 10, it was the first time when people had not gone to their places after feeding pigeons in Lenin Square – they had been silently marching along the pedestrianised Savetskaya street to the Belarus cinema.
People have collected more than 40,000 signatures against the construction, but the authorities have been ignoring their opinion. During the year of protest, about 70 mass events were banned. Therefore, people gather in the central square of Brest and feed pigeons, but even in this format, the authorities use repression. Many participants of the pigeon feeding were detained by the police, people were fined and held in prison. Every appearance of the Belsat journalists on the square is punishable by heavy fines.
The battery plant near the city is being built in the free economic zone Brest by a Chinese corporation. The project was commissioned by the iPower company. It is planned that the plant will have a full cycle of production of lead-acid batteries.