Yury Rubtsou goes on indefinite hunger strike

2015 2015-01-22T16:29:31+0300 2015-01-22T16:29:31+0300 en

The political prisoner demands a job with the country's average salary of $600.

Activist Yury Rubtsou from Homel, who serves his term in the village of Kuplin of the Pruzhany district allegedly for insulting a judge, went on an indefinite hunger strike on January 22.

“I have been in the correctional facility for a month. My prisoner's number is 7, which is considered to be lucky,” Rubtsou says. “But I don't see any luck: the prison authorities have not offered me a job with the country's average salary equivalent to $600. I have declared an indefinite hunger strike. I will hold the hunger strike until I am offered a job with the salary I want or until I die. I have the right to sacrifice my life. Another possible variant is that I am released and stop my hunger strike. The authorities must understand that there should be no political slaves in the country,” Rubtsou told Radio Svaboda.

Rubtsou says that besides the hunger strike and the economic demand, he also has a political demand:

“I want the national TV channel to give opposition an hour of air time daily for them to tell citizens about alternative views on the economic and political situation in the country. Under the Constitution, the monopolisation of the mass media by the state, organisations or individuals, as well as censorship, is not allowed. Many Belarusians are in thrall to stereotypes imposed by official propaganda. The media should give alternative views and criticise Lukashenka's policy.”

Rubtsou thinks people should learn from television if they really have decent salaries, low prices and the best economic system or if the slow devaluation of the ruble is good for the country. Belarusians have become poorer by one third during only two weeks, though little time has passed since the 2011 devaluation.

Journalists asked Rubtsou why he wanted to have a job with a salary of $600.

“I want to get proofs that such salaries really exist. I have been offered a job with a salary of 4.5 million rubles. But it is only a half of the average salary declared by the authorities. Moreover, I will have to pay taxes for the police, judges and prosecutors. I cannot and do not want to support the regime with such a miserable salary,” Yury Rubtsou said.

In October 2014, judge of Minsk's Tsentralny district court Natallia Vaitsekhovich sentenced Yury Rubtsou to 1.5 in an open-type correctional facility for insulting judge Kiryl Palulekh, who had heard the activist's case in spring. Rubtsou came to the Charnybyl Way rally wearing a T-shirt reading “Lukashenka, go away”. The police detained him and took him to a court stripped to his trousers.

Judge Kiryl Palulekh decided to try Rubtsou dressed like that, and the activist called him a “rascal”, according to the judge. The Minsk city court dismissed Rubtsou's appeal.

Viasna human rights centre and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee say sentencing Yury Rubtsou to a term in an open-type correctional facility gives grounds to consider him a political prisoner.