Market vendors who criticize presidential decree No 222, are going to hold a protest action in the center of Minsk. Self-employed businessmen from Brest, Vitsebsk, Homiel, Polatsk, Barysau have thrown hat in the ring.
Some opposition groups vow support to the protesters. The rally is to start at 12:00 (Minsk time) in October Square.
But will entrepreneurs be able to seize the moment? Today the European Union is to decide the further fate of sanctions against the Belarusian authorities. According to unofficial information from Brussels, the restrictions imposed will be substantially eased. As one might expect, not to spoil the situation, the regime is likely refrain from brutal crackdown on protesters.
12:07 The action begins. Opposition leader Anatol Lyabedzka speaks through a megaphone inviting entrepreneurs to tell about their problems.
12:08 “We will wait until someone from the Presidential Administration comes to us. I would like to add accrediting the first independent TV channel Belsat to our requirements. It will be covering events on an impartial basis,” entrepreneur Ales Taustyka said.
12:16 “We are not criminals. We have our present moment, and we will have our future. It is crucial that Lukashenka should take notice of our problem,” entrepreneur from the town of Slutsk says.
12:22 “We demand Lukashenka should make an apology,” entrepreneur Ales Makayeu says.
12:32 People are chanting “Join us!” “I came here to show my no-confidence in the president. He drove us to a dead end. Lukashenka can be replaced by somebody else, and our life will not become worse,” a man from Baranavichy says.
12:35 Poet and former political prisoner Uladzimir Nyaklyayeu takes the floor.
“The regime is afraid of the creation of the middle class. It suppresses any aspirations for freedom. Today, when you have gathered to take part in the rally, EU leaders want to finally lift sanctions on Lukashenka. Not on the people, but on Lukashenka. I offer to send a message to EU leaders, e.g. the Belarusian regime is skinning the people alive while the European Union is removing sanctions from the regime.”
12:40 Anatol Shumchanka, the leader of entrepreneurs’ association ‘Perspektiva’ failed to come to the rally.
12:45 “Many people do not realize that Decree No 222 is politically motivated, because they simply want to destroy us. Do not be afraid. The fact that people took to the streets is a good sign. I think this is just the beginning,” a female entrepreneur from Zhdanovichy says.
12:55 A resolution has been adopted. The protesters say another meeting will be held next Monday, if the authorities fail to understand them. Safiya, a businesswoman from Slutsk, says they go to the head of the presidential administration if the government does not meet their requirements: “Let’s go and claim that Decree No 222 is impracticable!”
13:09 Former presidential candidate and political prisoner Mikalai Statkevich speaks, the participants entrepreneurs chanting “Mikalai!”, “Long Live Belarus!”
13:12 “Of course, we are ashamed for other entrepreneurs who are now staying at home,” a man from Zhlobin says. He thanks opposition leaders who joined the protests. “I do not consider Shumchanka; he may well receive salary from secret services,” he added.
13:22 The action ends, there are only a few groups of people in October Square.
Beginning 2016, Belarusian self-employed businessmen selling clothes and shoes have to start working in accordance with the new rules that came into force on January, 1. Lukashenka’s Decree 222 of March 16, 2014 canceled the previous benefits in the required package of accompanying documents for the goods and ordered to get for them not only consignment documents, but also a certificate for compliance with the Eurasian Economic Community.
Representatives of entrepreneurs’ movement argued that the Russian market, where they bring cheap Turkish or Chinese clothing from, such documents are difficult to obtain. As a result, the businessman are fined and their goods are seized.