Liberalization nowhere near: Belarusian court fines opposition for laying flowers


Belarusian judges keep imposing fines heavy fines on participants of the march on the occasion of the proclamation of the Belarusian People’s Republic.

Alyaksei Yanukevich, Chairman of the Belarusian People’s Front, was Br 7.35 mln fined by Savetski district court of Minsk on April, 28.

“The court decided that I had taken part in an unsanctioned rally near the Kastrychnik cinema despite the fact that the place of gathering was agreed with the city authorities. According to the judge, it was ‘the massive presence of people in this place’ that turned out to be an unsanctioned rally. They said slogans were chanted there and I chanted them using loudspeaking equipment,” the politician told Belsat TV.

The court also penalized Maxim Vinyarski, a coordinator of the European Belarus civil campaign (30 basic units), Mikalai Kazlou, a member of the United Civic Party (40 b.u.), Vital Rymasheuski, a co-chair of the organisation committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy (10 b.u.), activists Mikalai Kolas, Zmitser Dashkevich (20 b.u.), Kasya Ludvih (25 b.u.), Ales Makayeu, Zmitser Silchanka, Yauhen Batura (30 b.u.).

Freedom Day (Dzień Voli) is an unofficial holiday in Belarus, which 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. The current regime denies Freedom Day and often prevents the opposition forces from celebrating it.

This year, the city authorities allowed the participants of the action to gather at the Kastrychnik cinema and then march to the park of Peoples’ Friendship of Peoples.  The sanctioned route is significantly different from the one proposed by the opposition. Former political prisoner Mikalai Statkevich came up with the idea to meet in the Yanka Kupala park at 17.00, lay flowers at the monument to the prominent poet and then head to the Kastrychnik cinema and the Academy of Sciences, of which they did not inform the authorities.

Opposition leaders Statkevich, Nyaklyayeu, Lyabedzka and Sevyarynets did take part in laying flowers at the monument to Yanka Kupala. The four politicians were fined as well.

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