Arrests and fines: how the government of Belarus responded to the rallies

Arrests and fines

Monday, March 13, the Belarusian courts handed down verdicts to participants of the protests against the so-called tax on spongers. To 15 days of arrest, was sentenced the leader of the Belarusian opposition United civic party (UCP) Anatol Lyabedzka, Chairman of the movement “For freedom” Yury Hubarevich and co-chair of the organizing Committee of the party “Belarusian Christian democracy” vital Rymasheuski. They were arrested on Friday, March 10, in Molodechno after the “March of natureade”, reports “Interfax”.

Over the weekend rallies were also held in Orsha, Pinsk and Brest. Protesters demanded not only a full repeal of Ordinance No. 3, but the holding of elections. The decree was signed by President Alexander Lukashenko in 2015. Collection of fines the tax inspection began in January of this year. According to the decree unemployed citizens need every year to pay the state 20 basic units (14 thousand rbl.).

In Orsha was arrested the co-chair of the organizing Committee of the party “Belarusian Christian democracy” Pavel Seviarynets, as well as several journalists and bloggers. Monday Orsha court sentenced the correspondent of “Radio Liberty” to the penalty of 575 rubles (about $300). The judge stated that it is charged with “participation in mass events and a street procession with the aim of public expression of protest against the decree №3, and the current government in violation of the established order of holding mass events” (quoted by “Interfax”). In response, the journalist said that in the West “as a correspondent of radio carried an editorial assignment covering the rally of natureade”.

In Brest, where the rally was held on March 12, five parties were sentenced to administrative arrests and fines.

Delayed reaction

The first protest against the decree passed in Minsk on 17 February. It was the biggest protest since 2010: in the March and rally was attended by more than 2 thousand people. During the rally, and after him no one was arrested, although the action was not agreed by the authorities. In late February protests also took place in Gomel, Grodno, Vitebsk, Brest and Mogilev. The interviewed experts pointed out that the authorities of Belarus have to solve a complex dilemma about how to respond to rallies: hard to break up the action or to cancel the decree.

Alexander Lukashenko expressed his attitude to meetings and to decree only on 9 March. That day he said that tax collection will be suspended for a year. As of February 21, he paid almost 54 thousand people. Lukashenka ordered by April 1 to make an accurate list of those who will have to pay “the tax”. “Must be the lists of slackers who need to get to work. And honest people do not have to touch it at all. We should not offend people, especially at this time,” said the Belarusian leader. Commenting on the protests against the decree in Minsk, Lukashenko said that the protesters “are not those parasites who are parasites,” and the people who mistakenly sent notices for payment of tax.

Then he said that citizens have the right to protest and offered to provide the Belarusian towns special areas for rallies of citizens. If the organization places for meetings the President of Belarus called for a focus on the Western experience.

The reaction of the authorities of Belarus can hardly be called confusion, said political analyst Kirill Koktysh. According to him, the government looked to how there have been protests and who is involved in them, and could not fail to note that the streets are mostly non-politicized people. Koktysh said that the arrested were politicians, and the verdict for 15 days, exclude their participation in two protests scheduled for 15 and March 25. On 15 March, the opposition plans to hold a protest against the decree, and on March 25, a traditional event held in honor of the freedom Day, dedicated to the proclamation of the Belarusian national Republic in 1918.

“The organizing Committee decided, given the unjustified repression that are taking place around the country, to hold a rally [on 15 March] resolved format,” — said at a press conference on March 13, the Executive Secretary of the organizing Committee of the party “Belarusian Christian democracy” Dennis Sadowski. He said that the action had been previously agreed by the city authorities. According to Sadovsky, arrests and fines will not lead to a decrease in protest activity.

Lukashenka’s decision on the suspension of collection of tax has lowered the motivation of ordinary citizens to participate in protests that do not agree Koktysh. He predicted that the recent events will not lead to an increase in the number of participants of rallies in the coming weeks.