Unauthorized demonstration in Minsk`s central square passes off without incident
An unauthorized demonstration staged in Minsk`s downtown Kastrychnitskaya Square on Monday evening to demand the release of political prisoners and commemorate the unsolved disappearances of four government opponents passed off without incident.
The demonstration came one day before the European Union`s foreign ministers were to decide whether to reimpose sanctions against Alyaksandr Lukashenka and other Belarusian officials.
At 6 p.m., some 40 opposition activists formed a line in the square along Independence Avenue, displaying images of opposition politicians Yury Zakharanka and Viktar Hanchar, businessman Anatol Krasowski and journalist Dzmitry Zavadski, who mysteriously disappeared in 1999 and 2000. They also displayed images of Artsyom Dubski, Mikalay Awtukhovich and Uladzimir Asipenka, who are believed to be political prisoners.
Demonstrators unfurled a sign saying, "We Remember," and Belarus` historically national white-red-white flags. They chanted, "Freedom to Political Prisoners!" "Long Live Belarus!" "Freedom to Dubski!" "Freedom to Awtukhovich!" and "Freedom to Asipenka!"
The demonstrators left the square at 6:30 p.m. No one was reported arrested.
Participants included prominent opposition leaders Anatol Lyabedzka, Lyavon Barshchewski, Dzmitry Bandarenka, Vital Rymashewski, Vyachaslaw Siwchyk and Zmitser Dashkevich.
Police did not interfere with the demonstration because of the upcoming meeting of the EU foreign ministers, Mr. Lyabedzka, chairman of the United Civic Party, told BelaPAN.
"Of course, some background should be created for this," he said. "Since police crackdowns on similar demonstrations in recent months did not provide a positive background, a decision was made not to touch us tonight. I believe that the order came not from police authorities but from someone higher up."
The government will do everything to obtain millions of euros under the EU`s Eastern Partnership program, Mr. Lyabedzka said. It is hard to say whether the next such demonstration will not be broken up, he added.
It is regrettable that the government decides whether or not to crack down on demonstrations depending on what will give it a greater advantage in bargaining with Europe, Mr. Barshchewski, of the Belarusian Popular Front, told BelaPAN.
While speaking to reporters in late October, Interior Minister Anatol Kulyashow said that police would arrest those participating in unsanctioned street demonstrations. "As a man who stands on guard of law, I consider it necessary to arrest them," Mr. Kulyashow said.
Opposition activists in Belarus and sympathizers throughout the world have been observing a so-called Day of Solidarity on the 16th day of each month since September 16, 2005, the anniversary of the 1999 disappearance of Viktar Hanchar and his friend Anatol Krasowski.
Messrs. Hanchar, Krasowski, Zakharanka and Zavadski are alleged to have been kidnapped and murdered by a government-run death squad.