Picket “For Fair and Free Elections” held in downtown Minsk
Former political prisoner and presidential candidate of the Republic of Belarus in 2010 Mikalai Statkevich stated he would hold an electoral picket on September 10 with the demand of free elections. The action started at 6 p.m. Let us remind that the Central Election Commission has registered four persons as candidates for presidency: Siarhei Haidukevich, Tatsiana Karatkevich, Aliaksandr Lukashenka and Mikalai Ulakhovich.
On the eve of the picket, the former political prisoner stated the following in his interview with RFE/RL:
At 6 p.m. on September 10 I will hold a picket near the HUM [City Department Store -ed.] on the occasion of the beginning of the stage of electoral campaigning. I invite all whose position is similar to mine to come to the picket. Please, come with your assessment of these so-called candidates, with posters or without them. If Lukashenka really wants this legitimacy, let him not prevent us from implementing our constitutional right to peaceful assembly. If they catch and imprison us – he can say goodbye to his legitimacy. I also invite the representatives of the long-term observation mission of the OSCE to the picket. Let's see what will happen next.”
Such politicians as Anatol Liabedzka, Uladzimir Niakliayeu and Pavel Seviarynets agreed to take part in the picket. The event was monitored by observers of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”.
5.55 p.m. About 60 people gathered. There are many journalists and policemen in plain clothes, as well as the police brass. Paddy wagons are parked round the corner.
6.00. A police officer talks with Uladzimir Niakliayeu. People carry white-red-white flags and a flag of the United Civil Party. One man came with the official Belarusian flag. The film producer Volha Nikalaichyk unfurls a white-red-white flag, too.
6.05. Police officers start drawing up a violation report under Art.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses on Mikalai Statkevich (organization of or participation in an unauthorized mass event). The police offer him to come to the police department. There are many people, it is hard to understand what is going on. Anatol Liabedzka and Ales Makayeu are among the participants of the picket.
6.15. Mikalai Statkevich answers the journalists' questions. A part of the people listen to the man with the official flag, who praises Aliaksandr Lukashenka. He looks like a provocateur. The police are shooting the event on video.
6.20 Somebody shouts, asking to call an ambulance, but it's unclear, who needs medical assistance. The picket participants chant “Long Live Belarus!” and clap their hands.
According to RFE/RL, there are about 200 people near HUM.
6.30. Aliaksei Mikhalevich, former presidential candidate and political refugee, who has recently returned to Belarus, comes to the picketers. Floor is taken by Uladzimir Niakliayeu and then by Anatol Liabedzka.
6.40. Mikalai Statkevich asks everyone to disperse and be accurate. Anatol Liabedzka calls on the people to register as election observers.
6.45. Policemen in plain clothes surround Mikalai Statkevich. The OSCE observers are standing near him. There are some 12-15 policemen in plain clothes at the HUM entrance.
6.50. The picket is over. Mikhalai Statkevich received charges under Art. 23.34 of the CAO. The violation report was drawn up by the police lieutenant, whom he passed his passport not to be distracted from talking with the citizens who came to the picket. He continues talking with them.