Belarusian democracy activists and their supporters marked the monthly Day of Solidarity with Belarus yesterday. In Minsk, the Belarusian capital about 200 people gathered on October Square and a further 200 people assembled along Skaryna Avenue, Charter 97 reports. A number of activists were beaten and arrested though sources vary as to how many. The BBC puts the number at thirty, while Charter 97 and Agence France Presse report that 20 were arrested.
Among those detained were activists from youth groups Zubr (Bison) and Youth Front. Zubr leader Evgenii Afnagel received a fifteen-day sentence and Young Front Activist Oleg Korban a ten-day sentence for “hooliganism”.
The Zubr website is reporting that protests have occurred in Norway, Prague, Warsaw, Riga, and Kiev. In addition, several activists from Amnesty International protested in front of the Belarusian Embassy in the Hague. In Washington, DC about seventy people joined the civic initiative Poglyad in a protest outside the Belarusian Embassy. Among those in attendance were Irina Krasovskaya, President of the We Remember Foundation and Irina Vidanava, editor of Student Thought, as well as the Slovak Ambassador. US Congressman Thaddeus McCotter also made an appearance and gave a short speech expressing his solidarity with the people of Belarus.
The Lithuanian European Parliamentarian Vytautas Landsbergis also made remarks concerning Belarus yesterday on the occasion of the anniversary of Lithuanian Independence:
“On the 16th day of each month we recall the destiny of our Belarusian brothers, who are so alike with us. We are united by Nioman, we have so much in common in our characters and folk songs. The Belarusians aspire to freedom. There are young people with the Belarusian flag here… (applause)… Long live free Belarus!... It should be a country with Belarusian schools, a country where people are not forced to respect the dictator, who came from a village and reigns alone on all television channels. Today in Belarus the opposition leaders either disappear with no trace or get cast to jail with no reasons and no guilt proved. Let us wish Belarus freedom and, at the same time, let us estimate the value of our independence.” (Reported by Charter 97)
Vitalii Klichko, former world boxing champion and leader of the Ukrainian Civil Block Pora-PRP also sent Charter 97 a message: “Today, on February 16, 2006, I add my voice to the voices of hundreds and thousands of people all over the world who call for freedom and democracy in your country, in brotherly Belarus.” “Today, on February 16, 2006, I add my voice to the voices of hundreds and thousands of people all over the world who call for freedom and democracy in your country, in brotherly Belarus.”Reported by Charter 97
At a session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg yesterday, MEPs expressed "solidarity with, and support for, all Belarusians who strive for an independent, open and democratic Belarus," reports EuroActiv.com With the Belarusian presidential elections just over a month away it is crunch time for the country’s struggling opposition. Few observers believe that the elections will be free and fair as incumbent President Aleksandr Lukashenko, who has ruled the country for twelve years, controls all major media outlets, and whose security service, the KGB, rivals its Soviet namesake in its oppressive vigilance.
In an interview carried on all Belarusian television channels on 27 January, President Lukashenko warned would be protesters that “there will be no disturbances. No one will climb onto the barricades to fight Lukashenko,” he said. “If there are provocations, we’ll give them such a going-over they won’t know what’s hit them.” (Reported by The Moscow Times)