18 September 2020 | Infocenter Free Belarus 2020
Lukashenko’s decision to close the borders with Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine was met with interesting comments from their side of the border.
8:00 am Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov reacted sharply to Alexander Lukashenko’s statement from yesterday. “Drink some water, stop manipulating people and blaming your neighbours. Lukashenko seems to have gone completely nuts with his power and paranoia about this. He is talking utter nonsense. Probably got the text from Putin.”
8:05 am The Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, through Minister Linkevičius, that this decision was “motivated by a desire to demonstrate, at any cost, the presence of a threat. If there is no such threat, it must be found.”
8:14 am As of the previous evening, the movement of goods across the western borders was proceeding as usual. Apparently, only the movement of citizens will be stopped.
By the way, Vladislav Savchenko, President of the European Association for Software Engineering (EASE), said that “about 400 Belarusians are waiting for relocation, 50-60 have already passed the border into Ukraine.” Since the beginning of August, more than 40,000 Belarusians have crossed the Belarusian-Ukrainian border. 500 of them are IT specialists.
8:25 am The Strasbourg Court is awaiting a response from Sweden on the situation of the Vitsebsk residents who requested political asylum.
The European Court of Human Rights is considering a petition for interim measures with regard to the Vitsebsk residents Vitaly and Vladislav Kuznechikov, who have been on the territory of the Swedish Embassy in Minsk for almost a week. This was announced by Vadim Drozdov, a lawyer from Switzerland who helps Vitsebsk residents to obtain protection, media reports.
8:34 am Maria Rabkova, the volunteer coordinator of the human rights centre “Viasna”, was arrested yesterday. Maria and her husband were arrested on the street on their way home. Their apartment was searched. According to available information, they were told they were being arrested as part of a criminal case under Part 3 of Art. 293 of the Criminal Code (training or recruiting people to participate in riots, or financing of said activities). The arrest was carried out by personnel of the Main Directorate for Combating Organised Crime.
8:42 am The State Border Committee commented on the “closing of the borders” with Lithuania and Poland. This is supposedly related to strengthening security.
“The Belarusian state borders are currently protected by enhanced versions of the border services and border control, with the use of tactical reserves. All measures are chosen taking into account the current situation in each particular direction,” said Anton Bychkovsky, an official representative of the State Border Committee.
He added that border checkpoints continue to authorise entries and exits within the limits of their capacity.
9:15 am The Belarusian regime is building a total video control system in the country.
An update on Synesis Surveillance System:
The Ministry of Internal Affairs, supported by a private Belarusian company Synesis, is building a total control system capable of automatically recognising people’s faces.
This primarily means installing video surveillance systems in the metro, train stations, and on Independence Square. Aside from analysing live videos, the Ministry of Internal Affairs is actively uploading videos taken at the protests to the servers for further analysis.
9:36 am Belsat: This morning, the Polish border service confirmed that Belarus did not close the state border.
“The traffic is as usual,” said Katarzyna Zdanovic, spokeswoman for the Podlaska Border Guard Service.
10:00 am Russian journalist and blogger Yuri Dud talked to Stepan Putilo, creator of the Telegram channel NEXTA. The result is a lengthy interview on Belarusians and protests.
10:25 am Today, Lukashenko is visiting “Mapid” (the largest construction company in Minsk – Ed.). According to one of the readers, “the workers are locked in the workshops for the duration of the visit, no one can go out.”
10:55 am In Homel, a priest who spoke against violence was summoned to the police “as a person against whom an administrative trial is being conducted”.
An hour ago, Father Vladimir wrote on his Facebook page: “Taking with me a stack of books. Ready for detention. Don’t consider myself guilty of anything. I will have a lawyer with me.”
11:19 am Parents of the schoolchildren of Minsk Gymnasium No. 4 (one of several schools where police officers gave lectures on responsibility for taking part in protests without parents’ knowledge) gathered for a meeting with the school headmaster. However, to make a promise is not the same as keeping it, and now the school administration categorically refuses to meet with the parents.
11:26 am TUT.BY: In Minsk, Emergency Situation units have been sent to remove flags from buildings 87 times already. The costs of dismantling the “illegally placed elements” are being recovered from the perpetrators, prosecutors said.
11:30 am Siarhei Dyleuski, member of the Coordination Council and chairman of the strike committee of the Minsk Tractor Plant, has been released from detention.
11:31 am After 10 days in Zhodzina detention centre, Valeria Ulasik, daughter of the TUT.by news portal editor, has been released as well. As Valeria said, she was arrested for posting photos from the protests online.
11:40 am A meeting to consider a complaint about the detention of lawyer Maksim Znak was scheduled today. Maksim Znak was arrested by the Investigative Committee on 9 September, in the case of “seizure of power”. Several dozen lawyers, who had previously recorded a video in support of Maksim Znak and Illia Salei, came to court to apply for a personal guarantee for Znak. However, the court session was postponed until the evening and transferred to another court hall without explanation.
11:45 am Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya commented on Lukashenko’s announcement of the border closure.
“Lukashenko already tried to scare us with non-existent enemies, accused peaceful people of violence, and real patriots – of betraying their homeland. But what he said yesterday about closing the borders – that’s a new level of losing touch with reality. These were the words of a weak man in his own imaginary world. Don’t listen, don’t pay attention to what Lukashenko says. He has lost all trust. All our neighbours are our friends. All Belarusians are one nation.”
11:46 am TUT.BY: Minsk Prosecutor’s Office tries to identify parents who went to the protests with their children.
Parents, whose children were at the rallies, are accused of failing their parental responsibilities. There have been 140 official warnings already issued to such parents.
The Prosecutor’s Office also points out that it will continue trying to identify parents who go to the protests with underage children.
11:50 am The Village Belarus: Lukashenko’s “border closure” brought down the cost of government bonds.
The volatility of Belarusian bond prices on the market is comparable to that of Venezuela.
12:10 pm The Coordination Council member Pavel Latushka spoke about the situation in the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: he claims that many diplomats will hold an “Italian strike”, declares the “defeat” of Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makei, and sharply criticises the Ministry’s personnel policy.
12:28 pm On 24 September, a new head of the Belarusian Athletics Federation will be elected. About a month ago, Vadim Devyatovsky, the current head of the Federation, gave an interview in which he admitted that he was disappointed with the current government. Since then, he has not appeared in public, and it is not known whether he will participate in the upcoming election.
12:38 pm Yuri Ambrazhevich, a Belarusian representative at the United Nations, stated that “there are political prisoners in the country”. He also denies the use of violence against detainees, and claims that the protests “were not always peaceful”.
12:40 pm The solidarity foundation “BY_Help” has spent its first million rubles helping 650 people. This was announced by Aleksey Lyavonchyk, one of the founders of the initiative, on his Facebook page.
12:49 pm The Belarusian Ministry of Internal Affairs started sending SMS messages, requesting people to report the use of “unregistered symbols”. According to the police, this will help to “uphold peace and order in the city”.
12:51 pm The Slovakian government has offered state scholarships to Belarusian students whose studies have been threatened by the difficult internal political situation.
12:57 pm Stanislava Gusakova, member of the Belarusian National Youth Council “RADA”, has been released after 10 days in Zhodzina detention centre.
1:09 pm “We see hundreds of reports of torture and inhumane treatment in custody.” The United Nations Human Rights Council is holding an emergency debate on the situation in Belarus, reports Naviny.by.
1:50 pm The detention of Coordination Council member Maria Kalesnikava has been extended until 8 November.
1:51 pm Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said that if the border is closed by Belarus, Lithuania will respond with the same measures.
2:10 pm Roman Rud, a journalist in Belarus’ main state newspaper Sovetskaya Belorussiya (SB) and considered one of the main propagandists, reported that his car was set on fire by unknown persons. Rud blames the incident on protesters. The Ministry of Internal Affairs made no official announcement about the car arson.
2:32 pm In Smalyavichy town, a man committed an act of self-immolation near the local police building. Reports say that he has burns on 90% of his body; he has been taken to intensive care.
3:28 pm Minsk. Management of the Belarusian National Technical University (BNTU) has approved new rules of professional ethics and behaviour of employees. Teachers are prohibited from publicly expressing their sympathies or dislikes of political parties or using non-state symbols both during and after working hours. Some teachers and lawyers have raised questions about the document.
3:47 pm Minsk. The lawyer and member of the Presidium of the Coordination Council Maksim Znak was charged under Part 3 of Art. 361 of the Criminal Code (calls for actions aimed at causing harm to the national security of Belarus). As an act of disagreement with the trumped-up charges, which still have not been clarified, the lawyer went on a hunger strike.
4:11 pm In a statement published on Facebook, the heads of the diplomatic missions of the European Union countries operating in Minsk expressed their solidarity with the political prisoners of Belarus. They called on the current authorities to act in accordance with their international obligations and to release all those imprisoned for political reasons over the past few months.
4:12 pm Belaruskali will appeal against the court decision which recognised the strike as illegal. The complaint will be filed early next week, stated Anatol Bokun, co-chairman of the Belaruskali Strike Committee, in his interview to Svaboda news outlet. According to Bokun, the strike at the plant continues in various forms.
“Another 20 people have been on strike for almost a month, just like me, without going to work. Many others are on Italian strike,” said Anatoly Bokun.
4:15 pm According to the press secretary of the Ministry of Health Yulia Baradun, the man who tried to burn himself near the entrance to the Smalyavichy police station is in very serious condition. The Ministry of Health does not report the details of what has happened and the identity of the man, citing the ban from the victim’s relatives.
4:16 pm 350 graduates and employees of the Faculty of Physics of the Belarusian State University (BSU) have appealed to the National Assembly of Belarus to end the violence, restore the rule of law and hold new presidential elections.
The text of the appeal was sent by the authors to Tut.by. The appeal was written in Belarusian and Russian, with signatures collected between 2-17 September.
5:52 pm Anton Rodnenkov, the spokesman for the Coordination Council who is now in Kiev, has detected via geolocation that his personal computer is currently located in the KGB building. He also reported that unidentified persons had changed the password in his email account to “kgb123”.
5:00 pm According to eyewitnesses on the border with Poland, Belarusian customs officials refuse to let people with goods into the country; even people with a pack of coffee are not allowed through.
5:11 pm On 18 September in Homel, a court sentenced the Orthodox priest Vladimir Drabyshevsky to 10 days in prison. The priest repeatedly took part in protest rallies, processions and one-man pickets with a “Stop Violence” banner.
5:15 pm The Latvian government has allocated 50,000 Euros for the medical treatment of Belarusians who have suffered from repression and torture. With the support of a volunteer organisation, the first six seriously injured victims have been transported across the border. The men say that if they had not escaped, they would have disappeared or ended up in jail.
5:20 pm The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Belarus ahead of and after the presidential elections, as stated in the resolution adopted by the UNHRC on 18 September, following an extraordinary meeting on the situation in Belarus.
23 member-countries of the Council voted in favour of the resolution, 2 against, 22 abstained.
The Council called on the Belarusian authorities to enter into dialogue with the political opposition, including the Coordination Council and civil society, in order to ensure that civil and political human rights are respected.
5:50 pm Reaction of the current authorities to possible EU sanctions could have a negative impact on the work of foreign media in the country, as stated by Uladzimir Makei, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, when speaking to journalists. In particular, he referred to the discussions held by the foreign ministers of the EU member states on the sanctions against Belarusian officials on 21 September.
5:51 pm Radio Svaboda reports that the man who set himself on fire near the Smalyavichy police station had been recently living in his mother’s house in the village of Zadomlya. In a conversation with reporters, the man’s sister Elena said that “the problem lies with alcohol.” The woman declined to comment further. When the journalists arrived, the police were searching the house.
5:55 pm It has been roughly three months since Viktar and Eduard Babaryka were arrested. Babaryka’s daughter Maria recorded a video message expressing support for everyone who is continuing to work for the future of Belarus, and thanked the Babaryka headquarters and Coordination Council, attorneys, journalists, volunteers, and all Belarusians who work every single day to achieve their goals. She also read out a new letter from her father.
6:15 pm The head of the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Uladzimir Makei, stated that Belarus is ready for potential EU sanctions against Belarusian officials. He indicated that if sanctions are adopted, “the government will take appropriate measures with regard to states’ domestic political operations”.
6:30 Belarus Orthodox Church spokesman Siarhei Lepin wrote on Facebook that when the Archbishop gave his blessing for Abbess Gabriela to participate in the pro-Lukashenko “Women’s Forum” at Minsk Arena, he was “unaware of the political subtext” of the event. Earlier, the Abbess had referred to protesters as “demons” and “sectarians”.
According to Lepin, the Abbess’ speech violated the principle of non-interference in politics, and the views she expressed do not reflect those of the Belarusian Orthodox Church.
6:40 pm The Oktyabrskaya and Kupalovskaya metro stations have been closed. No demonstrations were planned for today.
6:58 pm Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Volha Kavalkova, and Pavel Latushka recorded a video message calling for Belarusians to confirm the Coordination Council as society’s main representative on a survey on the platform “Golos” (Voice).
7:10 pm Nasha Niva readers have reported that two police vans are keeping watch near Pesochinitsa in Minsk, where the band NIZKIZ is putting on a free concert.
7:25 pm The Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the UN Human Rights Council resolution on the situation in Belarus “harassment”.
In its statement, the Ministry indicated that “working on behalf of the geopolitical and ideological interests of one player – the European Union – sheds doubt not only on the lofty goals of the Human Rights Council, but also on the very principles enshrined in the UN Charter.”.
The Ministry continued, “emotions and fake news, which Europe has spent so much money and effort fighting, have now been hastily thrown in by the EU delegation as the basis of its next resolution.”
7:45 pm The Telegram bot @INeedHelpBY_bot was launched today. This initiative aims at providing grocery assistance to striking factory workers or those who have lost their jobs due to political reasons, and their families. The chatbot makes it possible to send an application for assistance or send a request for assistance to anyone who needs it.
7:55 pm The Minsk Metro has stated that as of 7:54 pm, all metro stations are open and operating on a normal schedule.
8:10 pm Choreographer Anastasia Yembulaeva has been arrested in Homel. Yembulaeva had been staging a one-woman protest near the Homel Circus every day. The 20 year-old did not hold signs or chant slogans. She simply sat with her hands held in a “victory” sign.
8:15 pm TUT.by readers have reported that two people have been arrested by individuals wearing green uniforms and balaclavas in the Serebryanka neighbourhood. Previously, a solidarity chain had taken place in the area, but according to eyewitnesses, the two people arrested had simply come out of a pedestrian underpass.
8:22 pm People gathered near the Pushkin metro station. They brought icon lanterns in memory of Aliaksandr Taraikouski, the first protester shot dead by riot police. 40 days have passed since his death.
9:00 pm According to RBC, as of 21 September, Russia will resume flights from Belarus. The flights had been suspended as a measure to fight COVID-19.
9:15 pm Authorities have seized the child of European Belarus activists Yelena Lazarchik and Siarhai Matskoiti. On 17 September, Lazarchik was arrested leaving the Viasna human rights centre. She was held until 11:00 pm without any charges or citations filed. When she was released, she learned that employees at the school where her six year-old son Artiom studies had called child services, as she had not picked her son up from his aftercare programme by 6:00 pm.
The child was taken to an orphanage in Frunzenskiy District. No attempts were made to contact the child’s relatives, though his teacher had contact information for both his father and grandmother on file.
9:40 pm A TUT.by reader reports that a solidarity chain took place in the community of Lebyazhiy. At 8:30 pm, law enforcement arrived. According to the reader, people hid in building entrances, and the police demanded that they be allowed in.
10:00 pm The band NIZKIZ has finished its concert. As they finished, fans waved the white-red-white flags of the Belarusian opposition and chanted “Long live Belarus!”