22 October 2020 | Infocenter Free Belarus 2020
Good morning, the 75th day of the protests begins.
8:00 am The name of the missing poet Dmitry Strotsev was found on the prisoner list of the detention centre on Akrestsina Street. Alexandra Strotceva wrote about this on Facebook.
Dmitry Strotsev disappeared on the morning of 21 October. Family could not contact him.
“Dima and I parted near the house around 11 o’clock. After that, no one was able to contact him,” Anya (Alexandra) Strotceva wrote.
Dmitry Strotsev participated in the protests against election fraud and openly wrote about it. In his work, he spoke about the situation in the country. Some of his poems have been translated into other languages.
8:35 am Witnesses reported a fire – several cars burned near the prosecutor’s office in Salihorsk, writes the website “Soligorskiye avtomobilisty”.
As of 2:40 am, the fire was extinguished, the area cordoned off, and the site was being investigated.
9:30 am STOP repressions: Belarusian National Technical University alumni turn to the university administration
When the open letter was published on 22 October, 700 people had signed it. Belarusian National Technical University (BNTU) graduates from 1977 to 2020 are asking the university administration to go over to the side of good, and to stop intimidating, blackmailing and expelling students.
The graduates addressed the university rector, S. V. Kharitonchik, and the first vice-rector, G. A. Vershin, with the appeal “due to the difficult situation that is developing within the walls of the university and the unprecedented pressure exerted on university students because of their civic position, caused by the extremely ambiguous internal political situation in the Republic of Belarus.”
Those who studied at BNTU in different years noted that their university has always been famous for its progressive and liberal views, as well as its openness to dialogue with students. They referred to clause 1.2 of Article 2 of the Education Code of the Republic of Belarus, which speaks of the emphasis on “the priority of universal human values, human rights, and the humanistic nature of education”. They reminded the university administration of clause 5.1 of Article 18 of the same code, which is for “civil and patriotic education, aimed at the formation of a student’s active citizenship, patriotism, legal, political and information culture”.
“Particular caution, bewilderment and pain are caused by the facts of direct intimidation, outright threats and attempts to intimidate BNTU students by calling the riot police and the prosecutor’s office, which was done by the administration on 30 September 2020, and recorded on video footage by eyewitnesses of these events, as well as other episodes discussed in the student community.”
They condemned the repressions and expressed their solidarity with the students of their university as well as other universities of the country.
The Rector’s office was called upon to:
- observe the constitutional rights of students to freedom of expression of civic position;
- completely stop explicit or covert harassment of students because of their active civic position;
- guarantee the safety of students and their inviolability on the territory of the university.
They also supported the demands of millions of Belarusians for a fair presidential election, an end to violence and the release of political prisoners.
10:20 am Head of Russian foreign intelligence arrives in Minsk to meet with Lukashenko
Alexander Lukashenko will meet with the head of the Russian foreign intelligence service, Sergei Naryshkin, on 22 October in Minsk, reports the Pul Pervy Telegram channel.
10:30 am The Belarusian Association of Journalists informs that four of the six journalists who were detained last weekend and placed under arrest by court decision were transferred from the detention centre in Minsk to Baranavichy.
These four are Vsevolod Zarubin, Vadim Zamirovsky, Polish TV channel “Belsat” correspondent Ales Lyubenchuk, and “Belorusy i Rynok” newspaper correspondent Artyom Mayorov.
Onliner.by journalist Darya Spevak and freelancer Elena Dovnar remain in the Akrestsina detention centre.
Spevak, Zarubin and Zamirovsky were detained on the afternoon of 17 October while covering the Students’ March in the centre of Minsk. Zarubin and Zamirovsky were sentenced to 15 days of detention on charges of disobeying police officers (Article 23.4 of the Administrative Code) and participation in an unsanctioned mass event (Article 23.34 of the Administrative Code), and Spevak was sentenced to 13 days of detention under the same articles.
Lyubenchuk and Mayorov were detained on 18 October during the Partisans’ March in Minsk. Mayorov was charged with offences under Articles 23.34 and 23.4, and Lyubenchuk – under Article 23.4. Both of them were sentenced to 15 days of detention.
The cases of all the journalists detained on 17 and 18 October were considered by the judge of the Oktyabrsky District Court, Elena Zhivitsa.
Dovnar was detained on 26 September at the Women’s March in Minsk, after which she was sentenced to 15 days of detention and fined under Articles 23.4 and 23.34 of the Administrative Code. She was supposed to be released on 11 October, but instead was re-sentenced to 15 days under new charges.
11:12 am Today, at 11:30 am, the famous Belarusian basketball player Yahor Meshcharakou will be tried at the Zavodskoy District Court in Minsk.
Meshcharakou is charged under Art. 23.34 of the Administrative Code (for participation in an unauthorised mass event).
Yahor Meshcharakou was named Belarus’ best basketball player five times.
11:27 am The Prosecutor General’s Office refused to disclose who will be included in the Interdepartmental Commission for the investigation of torture. This was the response that human rights defenders received to their request, according to the Legal Initiative.
Human rights activists asked the prosecutor’s office to name the people who will be included in the commission for the investigation of torture, as well as to report on its work. The response, signed by the head of the information department, Andzelika Kurchak, says that “the information you are interested in, which forms the internal correspondence of the competent state bodies, cannot be provided since there is no reason to consider that it is directly related to the protection of your rights and legitimate interests.”
“Despite the fact that the departments of the Investigative Committee have received about two thousand complaints of torture, still no criminal case has been opened. The mass torture of people on 9-13 August sparked a strong public reaction, and this investigation, as well as the work of the Interdepartmental Commission, cannot be secret,” said Victoria Fedorova, head of the Legal Initiative.
Let us remind you that earlier, the Minsk Prosecutor’s Office also refused to disclose the results of its work on reports of mass torture at Akrestsina detention centre, with the explanation that this information is “official information of limited distribution”.
12:30 pm Government supporters will be taken to Minsk by trains
Two trains, 18 cars each, will be sent from Minsk and Mahiliou, Radio Svaboda reports.
The Belarusian regime is planning to gather “an enormous demonstration” of its supporters in the capital on Sunday, 25 October. Most of them are employees from government institutions in the regions, who have already complained about being pressured by their superiors and outright threatened with dismissals if they refuse to participate in the event.
“The branch of OJSC Domochay Bakery and Confectionery Company in the Mahiliou region, as well as branches in Kostyukovichi and Klimovichi, under a slightly veiled threat of dismissal/non-renewal of contracts, are forced to go to Minsk on 25 October for a rally in support of Lukashenko. For the management team, participation is obligatory,” an anonymous source told Radio Svaboda.
At Homel enterprises, people are promised two days off for participation in the rally.
Polatsk preschools must each send six persons to Minsk.
In Hrodna, every educational institution is to delegate five persons.
In Minsk, the requirements are much higher. At the “Kristal” factory, all workers must go to the rally in support of the regime.
12:35 pm Search underway in Hrodna Children’s Hospice
The Financial Investigation Department is conducting a search in a children’s hospice in Hrodna.
The search is said to be part of a check on tax evasion by hospice employees.
Recently, the authorities have put pressure on the hospice director, Volha Vialichka. The other day, she was detained in one of the Hrodna courtyards while giving a speech in front of local residents. The court fined the children’s hospice director 405 Belarusian rubles (approx. USD 160) for participating in an unauthorised event on 6 September.
Earlier, the authorities tried to put pressure on Volha through her children’s school. Her son’s class teacher sent a message to Volha, in which she indicated that the mother was behaving “not like other parents”.
Today, Hrodna.life also announced that the hospice is being evicted from the premises. Children’s polyclinic № 2 in Hrodna will terminate the lease due to the epidemiological situation. In a letter to the hospice director Olga Velichko, signed by the deputy head physician Irina Golub, it is said that the premises will be used to organise work with COVID-19.
1:40 pm Belarusian opposition awarded Sakharov Prize
The Presidium of the European Parliament decided to award the annual Andrei Sakharov Prize “For Freedom of Thought” to the democratic opposition of Belarus.
The winner of the 2020 prize was the “democratic opposition of Belarus, represented by the Coordination Council, an initiative of brave women represented by Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Svetlana Alexievich, Maria Kalesnikava, Volha Kavalkova, Veronika Tsepkalo, as well as political and public figures Siarhei Tsikhanouski, Ales Byalyatski, Siarhei Dyleuski, Stsyapan Putsila and Mikalay Statkevich,” the decision announced during an online broadcast on the European Parliament website says.
In his speech, President of the European Parliament David Sassoli noted that the protests taking place in Belarus have “shocked the world”.
“As our admiration for the people of Belarus grows, we are more and more upset by Lukashenko’s violent actions and the ousting [from the country] of opposition leaders. Lukashenko and his government lost the elections. And now it’s time to hear the voice of the people,” he also noted.
David Sassoli also pointed out that the Belarusian opposition is showing courage and firmness. On their side they have the truth, which “cannot be defeated by brute force”.
The Belarusian opposition was nominated for the Sakharov Prize by three major factions of the European Parliament – the European People’s Party, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, and Renew Europe.
The shortlist of nominees also included the archbishop of the Iraqi city of Mosul Najib Michael Moussa, and an environmental activist group from Honduras.
The award ceremony will take place on 16 December in Strasbourg. The amount of the prize is 50,000 euros.
2:20 pm The March of People with Disabilities is starting on Independence Square in Minsk
About 50 protesters have gathered at the Red Church, wheelchair-bound people among them. Many have flowers with them.
Later, people moved along Independence Avenue towards the State Department Store.
Two blue minibuses with police officers are parked on the side of Sovetskaya Street.
3:04 pm A man who was injured at a protest on 10 August joined today’s March of People with Disabilities. According to him, he has had to use a wheelchair after a stun grenade exploded nearby and his leg was partially amputated as a result.
3:08 pm The Prosecutor General of Belarus has arrived at the Belarusian University of Informatics and Radioelectronics
There, Andrey Shved will meet with students and employees.
3:11 pm Traffic police are stationed at every intersection along the avenue, drivers are honking non-stop. Pedestrians stop to applaud the participants of the March of People with Disabilities, who have reached the intersection with Gorodskoy Val Street. That is where the Ministry of Internal Affairs headquarters is located. People are chanting: “Put Karaieu [the Interior Minister] on trial!”
3:14 pm More than 400 criminal cases have been filed against protesters but not a single one concerning police brutality and violence.
“Since 9 August, law enforcement has started more than 400 formal investigations into mass riots, organising and preparing gross disruptions of public order, resisting arrest, violence and threats against police officers, defacing and damaging property, and hooliganism,” said the Prosecutor General’s Office representative, Dmitry Bryliov.
Meanwhile, victims of police brutality have filed hundreds of complaints with the police.
3:43 pm Last Thursday, the March of People with Disabilities ended at the GUM Department Store. This time, people decided not to stop and turned towards Niamiha Street. Up to a hundred people are still marching. So far, there have been no incidents at the rally.
4:02 pm Participants of the March of People with Disabilities reached Oktyabrskaya Square. Some of them went home; the rest formed a chain of solidarity.
4:29 pm Onliner, TUT.BY, BelaPAN and Belsat journalists have been in jail for 5 days. Today was the only day they could receive packages from the outside. And on this very day, Zamirovsky, Zarubin, Mayorov and Lyubenchuk were moved to Baranavichy. It is unknown whether their relatives managed to get anything to them.
Onliner reported that Darya Spevak is still at Akrestsina pre-trial detention centre. A package for her has been accepted. Unfortunately, there is no other news from Ms. Spevak, and it is unclear whether she is able to receive any correspondence. Her colleagues haven’t gotten a single reply.
4:47 pm A new Constitution may possibly be adopted without any input from the people
“There is another option that is rarely talked about. It concerns a possibility of adopting a new Constitution. The current Constitution states that a ‘new’ one (this word is not used in the text) could be adopted like a normal law, without a referendum. So it is up to the parliament and the president which way to choose and which changes take into account,” a former Constitutional Court justice Aliaksandr Maryskin said during a round-table discussion titled “Constitutional reform in Belarus: new possibilities for the development of the country”.
4:58 pm The young man who was put in pre-trial detention because he took a photo with a water cannon hydrant has been released. Nikita Ignatiuk is a suspect in a criminal case concerning organisation and preparation of gross public order violations, or active participation in such.
5:04 pm Poet Dmitry Strotsev was sentenced to 13 days of detention by judge Victoria Shabunya.
5:06 pm British analytical centre: Tsikhanouskaya won the elections in Belarus
British analytical centre Chatham House has published the results of a study by expert Gregory Astapeni. Almost 900 Belarusians took part in the research, and the statistical error does not exceed 3.27%.
According to the poll, Tsikhanouskaya won 52.2% in the elections, Lukashenka – 20.6%; only 13.7% refused to answer this question. More than 70% of respondents consider the elections fraudulent.
5:12 pm Yahor Meshcharakou was recognised as the best basketball player in Belarus five times. Today, he was found guilty of “participating in an unauthorised mass event” and fined 540 rubles ($212).
5:15 pm Ministry of Internal Affairs representatives have stated that the protests are increasingly presenting a terrorist threat.
5:17 pm A new criminal case was filed against journalist Aliaksandr Vasyukovich.
“I just got a call from the Central District Department of Internal Affairs, which told me to come and read through the report about my participation in the unauthorised rally on 13 September. The most baffling thing is that the Frunzenskiy district police office had already drawn up one report against me, and I served 11 days in jail. He said that I should receive a summons,” said Mr. Vasyukovich.
5:29 pm Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is on a working visit to Copenhagen. There, she met the Danish delegation to the Nordic Council, as well as with the Nordic Council of Ministers. She took part in a meeting of the Foreign Affairs committee of the Danish parliament and held a press conference.
When asked about efficient methods of civilian resistance, Ms. Tsikhanouskaya said: “Protest rallies and strikes are key.”
5:33 pm 63-year-old Brest resident Yelena Gnauk has been released after serving 18 days in jail and going through yet another trial. The court found Ms. Gnauk guilty and fined her 810 rubles ($318). The reason for the investigation was an unauthorised rally that took place on 30 August.
6:10 pm Nina Baginskaya, an activist, responded to Lukashenko, who had urged not to detain her during the protests. “If Nina Baginskaya is taken away, there will be no opposition. No one will go,” Lukashenko said the day before.
According to Nina, she “finds it all funny.”
“But I understand that he has such a position. So, the police do not dare to beat me, and he dares to take my pension away ‒ 50 percent. How is it possible? It’s simply laughable! I don’t believe him, he twists and turns, he doesn’t know what to say,” Baginskaya told the “Dozhd” news channel.
6:18 pm The personnel of Hrodna Thermal Power Plant-2 signed a statement in which they recognize the Coordination Council, declare the election held on 9 August 2020, as illegitimate and demand the release of political prisoners and stopping persecution of citizens for their political views.
The statement was signed by more than 250 people.
6:27 pm The young ladies with white-red-white umbrellas have reached the bridge over the Nemiga (Minsk), where they finished today’s walk with a photo shoot.
7:23 pm Lukashenko has made new personnel reshuffle decisions.
Alexander Lashin has been appointed Deputy Chairman of the State Committee for Forensic Expert Examinations. The decree on Lashin’s appointment was signed by Lukashenko on 22 October, as reported by his press service.
Maxim Voronin was relieved of his post. He was seconded to the Prosecutor General’s Office, staying at the same time as a member of staff of the State Committee for Forensic Expert Examination.
This is the fifth personnel reshuffle in the law enforcement agencies in the last 10 days.
7:43 pm Evening is the time for busy life at the residential courtyards.
Knights are holding their show at Tuchinsky Square in Minsk today. They talk about the life of the nobles (szlachta), their training and leisure activities. A saber fighting performance has been promised to the eager audience. Local residents brought hot drinks, treats, they decorated the square with balloons, flags and garlands. The event is very popular with children.
7:44 pm The “Student Working Group” Telegram channel of the Belarusian State University (BSU) has published the results of the meeting between BSU students and Sergei Kasperovich, the head of the main department of vocational education of the Ministry of Education.
7:50 pm A Telegram channel linked to Lukashenko’s press service has reported that a pro-government rally was scheduled for Sunday, 25 October.
The announcement includes the quote by Mikhail Orda, the head of the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus: “We have applied for the event and invite everyone who wants to express their position and cares about the fate of our country, to come to the event on Sunday and express this position clearly. By and large, to show who currently the master in our country is!”
A reminder: 25 October is the day of the People’s Ultimatum.
7:56 pm During his speech at a meeting of the “Valdai” International Discussion Club, Putin spoke about the protests in Belarus: “What is happening in Belarus differs favorably from the events in a number of “developed democracies,” unarmed were not shot in the back in Minsk,” and stressed that Russia had not interfered and would not interfere in the affairs of the neighboring state.
8:08 pm Yury Voskresenky has confirmed that Nikolai Lukashenko was present during the meeting at the KGB detention centre.
10:19 pm The Ministry of Health reported 738 new cases of coronavirus infection per day, a record for the second wave. In this regard, Vitebsk City Executive Committee has published a new “action plan” to fight the virus. The measures include restriction of mass events with more than five participants.