Why the Belarusian authorities dispersed the opposition rally

Detentions in Minsk

Belarusian law enforcers three days, from March 24 to 26, detained more than a hundred people involved in opposition actions. The detention took place not only in Minsk, where was held the largest rally, but in the other cities — Bobruisk, Orsha, Borisov, and others.

March 25 in the capital of the Belarusian opposition gathered to hold a rally called “freedom Day.” Rallies or marches dedicated to the day of proclamation of the Belarusian people’s Republic in 1918, held in recent years on a regular basis. Last year Minsk hosted two shares, one was agreed with the authorities, the other is not, in them participated about 1 thousand people, no one was arrested.

The initiators of the action this year saw it as a continuation of a series of rallies against the “tax on parasitism”. Rallies against tax collection broken with more than half of the citizens of the country began in mid-February, the first action was not consistent, however, the government did not oppose them. In early March, President Alexander Lukashenko said that the tax will be deferred. However, this has not calmed the situation, rallies, mostly uncoordinated, continued their participants were detained. The opposition said they would hold a meeting before the complete abolition of the tax.

In mid-March, representatives of six opposition groups had applied to conduct in Minsk on March 25 procession from the Academy of Sciences on Central Independence Avenue. Among the bidders were representatives of the movement “For freedom”, the organizing Committee of the party “Belarusian Christian democracy”, the United civil party, of the party “Belarusian popular front” movement of solidarity “Razam”. To go this day to the streets and hold a demonstration of “angry Belarusians”, but without the approval of the request, called on fellow and former candidate for the presidency in 2010 Nikolai Statkevich.

The Minsk city Executive Committee, the March is not agreed upon, recommending applicants to hold a rally in the Park of Friendship of peoples. The opposition refused the offer.

On Saturday morning, law enforcement authorities blocked the area near the metro station “Academy of Sciences”, in the centre of the city was introduced vehicles, including police cars, water cannons, armored vehicles, police squads and Riot police stood around Independence Avenue. Point of detention began at metro, and then the police began to break up a crowd of protesters and detain them in small groups, the rest of the protesters were pushed back from Central Avenue and adjacent streets, where they continued detention, have informed “RIA Novosti”. According to “Belarusian partisan”, all on Central Avenue came a few hundred people. Many were white-red flags and flowers. People whistled and shouted slogans: “Shame!” “Freedom!” “People — salary, government — shovel!” and “Go away!”, the human rights center “Spring”.

Sunday on Oktyabrskaya square in Central Minsk, police detained about ten people, came to demand the release of detainees on Saturday.

The exact number of detainees on stocks weekend is unknown. “RIA Novosti” with reference to human rights defenders reports that on the night of March 26 the police pending a court hearing held about 100 people.

According to the activists of the human rights center “Viasna”, since the beginning of March, about 300 people were detained in Belarus for participating in various protests.

Cut off the leaders and observers

The opposition was preparing the action Saturday without three known opposition: 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, March 13, was sentenced to 15 days of arrest for participation in an unsanctioned rally on March 10.

In the night of March 25 was taken off the train, another opposition leader, writer and presidential candidate in 2010 Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu. He returned from Poland to Minsk to take part in the action. The policy had a hypertensive crisis, he was placed in the hospital. Friday did not know the whereabouts of Mikalai Statkevich. Statkevich and nyaklyayew participated in the rally against the results of presidential elections in 2010. For participation in the unauthorized action Nyaklyaeu was sentenced to two years in prison, Statkevich “for the organization” to six in 2015, he was pardoned by President Lukashenko.

On Saturday, Riot police detained 57 people in the human rights center “Viasna”. On 25 March there was held a briefing of the observers who was going to monitor the campaign on the occasion of “freedom Day”, which is accredited by the Belarusian Helsinki Committee. People put on the floor, ordered everyone to lie down, describes the detention of press release center. Later on Saturday were all released.

The Belarusian authorities have resorted to harsh methods, as it is the only known way of behavior, says the Belarusian political scientist Valery Karbalevich. The stiffness of the action he says and the fact that the protests of recent months have destroyed the image of Lukashenko as President and scared of power, so they decided to respond with a large margin and try to strike, comparable to the events of 2010, when after the opposition rally she was actually defeated: people are scared, and the leaders condemned. This is a hard style of Lukashenko, but it should be noted that the authorities had acted in accordance with legislation, formally, the police had reason to disperse the attention of the Deputy Director of the Institute of CIS countries Vladimir Zharikhin. The behavior of the authorities could influence and context: the recent events in Ukraine, intercepted earlier in the week armed groups in Belarus gave the authorities cause for concern, he says.

On Tuesday, Lukashenko announced the arrest of several dozen militants that trained in Belarus provocation with weapons. According to him, they prepared in training camps in Bobruisk and Osipovichi, Ukraine, and “in Lithuania or Poland.” The Belarusian KGB initiated a criminal case on the fact of training and preparation to participate in the riots. Was detained 26 people.

Europe condemns

The violent dispersal of the participants of the unauthorized action was condemned by the European Union. “Such repression against freedom of speech and Assembly contrary to the stated policy of democratization of Belarus and its international commitments”, — reads the statement of the foreign service of the European Union. The actions of the security forces to quell the protests it called the “indiscriminate and inappropriate”. The Ministry of foreign Affairs of great Britain and Poland have condemned as “arbitrary and indiscriminate” detention of citizens and called for all detainees to release. “Large-scale detention of peaceful demonstrators, human rights defenders and a number of journalists are contrary to democratic values,” expressed concern about the U.S. Embassy in Minsk.

In 2016, the EU lifted almost all sanctions against Belarusian companies and officials. This year, the rapprochement between the EU and Belarus continued: President Lukashenko by his decision to abolish visas for tourists from 80 countries, including from Europe, the authorities also agreed on the implementation of the European construction project on the territory of Belarus of migrant reception centers.

“The action was unauthorized. Participation in unauthorized actions leads to specific consequences in any country of the world. And that “non-European” to consider the actions of our law enforcement agencies of Western policy? In Minsk dispersed the demonstrators with water cannons? Can be sprayed gas? No. And the glory of God. There were no casualties,” he responded to claims by Europeans, the foreign Ministry spokesman Dmitry Mironchik (quoted by BelTA).

As for the normalization of political relations with the EU will affect the events in Minsk, far sooner, said Belarusian analyst Valery Karbalevich. He points out that much will depend on the future behavior of the authorities and how severe the punishment for the participants. However, even if the courts take a tough decision and I repeat the situation in 2010, when, after the rally was actually for a few years, crushed the opposition, it would not necessarily lead to a new cooling of relations with Brussels and Minsk, assumes Karbalevich: in the context of the ongoing conflict between Minsk and Moscow, the EU is unlikely to be interested in the complication of relations with Belarus.

Europe will not pay serious attention to events in Belarus, as interested in continuing the conflict with Russia Lukashenko, and criticism can push it to the rapprochement with Moscow, says Zharikhin. The Russian authorities the events in Minsk did not comment. Between Minsk and Moscow since last year has not addressed the question about the price of gas.