19 September 2020 | Infocenter Free Belarus 2020
Earlier, Amnesty International recognized members of the Coordination Council and their associates as prisoners of conscience.
An international human rights organization states that the authorities are obliged to guarantee the possibility of a safe return to all Belarusian citizens who have been forced to leave the country. They call for a thorough and transparent investigation of all reports of human rights violations committed by law enforcement and other state bodies and the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
“The government-sponsored escalating campaign of persecution, harassment, forced expulsion from the country and prosecution of members of the Coordination Council and their supporters and associates is deeply troubling and must be stopped immediately. The current situation is a gross widespread violation of the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, personal freedom, right to a fair trial, freedom of movement, as well as other fundamental human rights,” the message says.
Human rights activists remind that six out of seven members of the Coordination Council Presidium are either in custody or have been forced to leave the country.
7:42 am In the fight against the protest movement in Belarus, Lukashenko is playing “the tune of anti-Western propaganda” with all his might and claims that “rows of NATO tanks are buzzing right at the gates of the country”.
As Frankfurter Rundschau writes today, at the same time Lukashenka „looks more and more like a confused leader who, after 26 years of rule, is no longer able to understand that no one wants to follow him anymore.”
According to the newspaper’s journalists, the threats from Lukashenka show his weakness, and there is “a justified hope that Putin will be able to show understanding and allow Lukashenko to fall.”
However, “the biggest threat is that Lukashenko can bet everything on one card. Namely, a severe escalation of violence,” reports DW.
7:59 am In response to readers' inquiries, FINANCE.TUT.BY tried to find out how much the organization of a pro-Lukashenko forum-concert could have cost: bringing in women from the regions, covering their travel expenses (some had to miss a day off work), Baskov’s performance (one of the most “costly” performers in Russia), stage preparation. “Minsk-Arena” was also decorated with flags, the largest of them estimated to cost more than 5,000 BYN. One can’t help asking what sources have been used to finance the event amidst the severe deficit of the state funds and escalating the external debt of the country.
8:22 am President of the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists, Vidmantas Janulevičius, said in the program “Day on Delfi” that the complete closure of borders with neighboring countries would primarily damage Belarus.
As of Friday evening, the customs control regime at the border has not changed, the Belarusian customs imposed strict control of cars with European number plates: “They are sent for X-ray screening and spend hours in the queue.”
The expert believes that it is impossible to completely close the border: “Most of the traffic flows to Kaliningrad, I believe that the cargo should still be able to pass. Business is always looking for opportunities to improve, accelerate, or increase the level of transport safety, in my opinion, they will continue transportation via Russia-Latvia.”
He believes that Lukashenko’s statement is politically motivated and does not reflect the economic capabilities of Belarus: “Termination of cargo transportation and transit will mostly damage Belarus. This is an attempt to send a message to foreign countries not to meddle in the Belarusian internal affairs, but I doubt there will be any real action. No one can live long without money, and no one will financially support them for a long time either.”
Janulevičius predicts that plants and factories will stop in the neighboring country, no funds gathered for transit: “Finally, the goods imported into Belarus are charged with VAT which amounts to the budget contribution of nearly 70% of Belarus' GDP. […] Neither the regime itself nor business will be able to survive with closed borders for longer than a month.”
9:07 am The Investigative Committee has got rid of the statement made by the member of the Presidium of the Coordination Council Maria Kalesnikava with regard to the abduction.
According to Gleb German, press secretary of Viktor Babaryka’s headquarters, the Investigative Committee forwarded a statement to the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
09:09 am TUT.BY compiled a list of books for those who want to read something about the 1990s in Belarus. The nineties are back in fashion. Not least thanks to Lukashenko, who in his speeches repeatedly appealed to this period: he talked about “enough flour left only for three days”, life “in straw shoes” and “without pants”, as well as “cars arsons and Molotov cocktails”, which were used by the demonstrators.
Biography of Lukashenka, a study of his opponent and other books published in Belarusian and Russian can help readers to better understand this period.
9:18 am Press Secretary of the Belarusian Orthodox Church, Sergiy Lepin, stated, on his Facebook page, that the opinion expressed by the mother superior Gavriila at the pro-Lukashenko women’s forum in Minsk on 17 September, should not be attributed to the entire Belarusian Orthodox Church.
We remind you that the mother superior of the Grodno Orthodox monastery called the Belarusians protesting against the current government, “a crowd of madmen”, “an angry herd” and compared them with sectarians.
“Mother superior Gavriila attended the event with the blessing of the Metropolitan, however, the Metropolitan had not been informed that this would not be just some kind of “women’s” event, but an event with a certain political message,” wrote Sergiy Lepin. “Has the mother superior violated the principle of non-interference in politics in her speech? Evidently, yes. But, in any case, she expressed her personal opinion which should not be attributed to the entire BOC.”
9:22 am Over the next week, Washington and Brussels are to announce a new package of sanctions against the Belarusian authorities.
The US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, George Kent made an assumption: “Let’s see if we can do it early or in the middle of next week.”
According to him, the parties are currently holding consultations in order to “produce a coordinated statement.”
10:01 am According to the distinguished Professor of the University of Alberta (Canada) David Marples, Russian President Vladimir Putin has not yet fully decided which side in the Belarusian conflict to support.
In his interview with Voice of America, he noted that “Lukashenko is getting very close to infuriating Putin.” In his opinion, some events (for example, the capture of the “Wagnerers” and accusing them of preparing protests) “looked like an obvious provocation and should have seriously angered Putin.”
“If this had happened in Kyiv, the consequences from the Kremlin’s actions would have already been clearly seen. However, Putin was silent and did nothing until these mercenaries were returned home. However, Putin showed no reaction to the demonstration in Minsk, in any case, his reaction was different from his response to the Maidan in Ukraine in 2014. Putin has not decided yet which side he is on in the Belarusian conflict, but it is clear that Lukashenko is annoying him. This means that he wants Lukashenko to eventually leave, but the persisting question is still there for Putin: who will replace him? And Putin, primarily, fears that Lukashenko will be replaced by a pro-Western leader inclined to rapprochement with the EU,” the professor said.
[David R. Marples is a Canadian historian and recognized expert on Belarus: he has written several books on the situation in this country, including “Our Glorious Past: Lukashenko’s Belarus and the Great Patriotic War” and “Prospects of Democracy in Belarus” used by many experts on the situation in Eastern Europe as basic works to understand the events in Minsk].
10:28 am According to TUT.BY readers, military exercises are in full swing in Brest: “At the moment, 7 military aircrafts IL have passed at low altitude, including 6 with paratroopers, 1 with a load, with around 40 soldiers jumping out of each aircraft.”
12:39 am The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) will put together an Expert Group to conduct a full review into the status of the 2021 World Championship after Latvia expressed an unwillingness to co-host alongside Belarus amid political unrest in the latter country.
“The IIHF is deeply concerned over the recent events unfolding in Minsk, but as a sports federation, the IIHF is not a political entity and cannot move a tournament for political reasons. However, the IIHF is responsible for ensuring that each tournament host can guarantee the health and safety of the players, officials, and spectators,” – Rene Fasel, The president of the Federation said.
Latvia’s government wants the International Ice Hockey Federation to find a new co-host or it will consider withdrawing from the tournament, scheduled for 21 May – 6 June.
12:45 pm Over a hundred people have gathered by a children’s shelter in Minsk where Elena Lazarchik’s six-year-old son was taken yesterday.
Elena Lazarchik, an activist of a non-government organization “European Belarus”, was detained on 17 September when leaving the office of “Viasna”. Her son was then at school.
They let Elena out in the evening of the same day, but her son was taken away and brought to the social center where he has stayed till now.
1:00 pm The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus will check Maria Kalesnikava’s claim on her abduction. Kalesnikava had filed a claim for the commencement of a criminal case on the fact of her abduction and threats, as well as a request for examination of bruising and damage to her health.
1:05 pm Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has expressed her admiration for Belarusian women. She emphasized that she admires the courage of the women who keep coming out to the marches, again and again, despite pressure and intimidation.
In addition, Tsikhanouskaya expressed her outrage over the situation with Elena Lazarchik’s son, who was taken away after Elena was detained.
“The whole world admires Belarusian women, and you are rightfully worthy of admiration. My heart is with each of you. Thank you!” – said Sviatlana.
1:15 pm Svein Tore Holsether, President and Chief Executive Officer of Yara, the largest partner of the Belarusian enterprise Belkali, yesterday met with the participants of the strike in Salihorsk. The conversation lasted for 40 minutes, the chairman of the strike committee reported.
According to Anatoly Bokun, the strike committee handed over to the Yara leadership a list of repressed workers, those who were fired, arrested, and deprived of their bonuses for participating in the strike. Bokun expects Yara to mediate dialogue between the strikers and the plant executives.
1:35 pm Elena Lazarchik has left the children’s shelter with her son.
1:53 pm The man who set himself on fire in Smolevichi has been transported to the Burns Care Center of the City Clinical Hospital of Emergency Medical Care – reports the Ministry of Health in its Telegram channel. The man is now in an intensive care unit; his condition, unfortunately, is extremely severe.
2:02 pm Despite Lukashenko’s recent threats to close the border with Lithuania and Poland, the situation on the Lithuanian border with Belarus remains stable. “The atmosphere is normal, the traffic is usual,” said a Lithuanian Border Guard to the radio LRT.
2:20 pm The production of vehicles at the Minsk Automobile Plant fell in August. The strike committee considers this a consequence of the Italian strike and has provided figures confirming this. According to the Belarusian Statistics Agency, in August the production of buses fell by 53% and the production of trucks by 23%.
However, the company itself claims that the plant’s production figures have not declined. It has not provided alternative figures to confirm stable production, reports naviny.by.
Additionally, since the beginning of September, a decline in production has been observed in other industries: mining – by 36.9%; oil refining – by 27.2%; textile production – by 14.4%; rubber and plastic products – by 12.6%.
2:23 pm Readers of tut.by report seeing numerous police detention vehicles near the central market where women’s protest marches usually start. There are currently at least 3 buses and 6 detention vehicles.
2:49 pm Nina Bahinskaya, a 73-year-old Belarusian opposition activist, arrived at the central market. Other women have also already started gathering.
2:53 pm At the entrance to the metro in Minsk, police check bags and purses of all female passengers. Men are ignored.
3:33 pm There are at least a thousand people at the Women’s March in Minsk. The participants are very well organized, chanting: “We believe, we can, we’ll win.”
So far, there have been almost no police, nor armed men in civil clothes and balaclavas. Two people in police uniforms were watching the march. One of them started filming the participants. In response, they chanted “Shame!”
3:54 pm Residents of Uruchcha organized their now traditional neighborhood picnic in the courtyard. An unknown man who introduced himself as a local resident tried to ruin it. The journalists present in the courtyard asked the police for help, as the man behaved aggressively, but the police preferred to ignore the incident.
3:57 pm A column of the Women’s March has passed along Bogdanovich Street to Bangalore Square. Cars are passing by and honking in support of the protesters.
A column of bikers with white-red-white flags greeted the March participants. The March continued to move forward, but the bikers were stopped by the traffic police.
4:15 pm Radio Liberty reports that armed men wearing green uniforms have appeared at the Women’s March, by the parking lot of a major shopping center (called Europe Mall). They started detaining bikers in the parking lot but the women made a chain protecting the bikers. Journalists said that no one was detained in the end – the men in green had to move away and the marchers continued to make their way through the city.
4:20 pm Nina Bahinskaya has recently become a well-recognized figure of the women’s marches. Some people even say she is now more popular than many rock-stars. “Nina! Nina!” chanted people standing by the shopping center “Europe”, when Ms. Baginskaya, smiling and looking self-assured as always, appeared nearby holding a bouquet of flowers that someone had given her during the march.
4:30 pm They’ve started detaining participants of the Women’s March. First, the marchers noticed detention vehicles and grouped together, linking arms (so that the police cannot remove them one by one). Soon, several buses drove up, armed men in balaclavas got out of the buses and surrounded the women near the “Iceberg” shopping center. Protesters are chanting: “The law is for everyone!”
4:32 pm Radio Liberty reports that the riot police have begun to arrest the women violently. Those linking arms are dragged along the pavement. A chokehold was used on one of the participants. 73-year-old Nina Bahinskaya has also been detained and taken to the detention vehicle.
4:40 pm Hundreds of people have now been detained.
Women linked arms together, but the police used force to pull them out and take them to detention vehicles. Those not detained stand defiantly, singing the Belarusian song “Kupalinka”.
One of the women in the march has lost consciousness. The riot police have surrounded her but they are not helping her. They are saying that the ambulance is on the way.
A woman has run up to them, shouting that the unconscious lady is her sister and she is epileptic. The police won’t let the woman aid her.
4:50 pm Two ambulances have arrived. Doctors are helping the injured. One of the women is lying on the pavement surrounded by doctors and riot police.
5:06 pm TUT.BY readers report that Nina Bahinskaya has been let out of the detention vehicle by the Sovetsky Police Department and is now calling the department’s intercom, demanding they return her flag.
5:11 pm By 5 pm almost no one was left by the “Iceberg” shopping center. Most of the March participants had been taken away in buses or detention vehicles.
One of the women tore off a balaclava from one of the men in green detaining them. He literally carried the woman into the detention vehicle and has stayed there himself.
5:20 pm TUT.BY states that the police underestimated the scale of the Women’s March, so some of the participants couldn’t be detained because there was not enough space in the detention vehicles.
5:21 pm About 100 people with white-red-white flags have joined in a chain of solidarity in Surkhanava Street, opposite the place where the Women’s March was dispersed.
5:27 pm During the Women’s March, by the “Iceberg” shopping center, a young man launched a drone with a white-red-white flag that made a recording of the March and of today’s detentions. The drone owner has also been detained.
5:30 pm Minsk considers the planned participation of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya in the Council of the European Union’s meeting in Brussels to be an act of disrespect to the citizens of Belarus, stated Press Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Anatoly Glaz.
Mr. Glaz noted that such actions are interference in the internal affairs of Belarus and called Tsikhanouskaya “a convenient subject, in all respects, appointed from the outside”.
Earlier, Alexander Lukashenko, addressing the audience at a pro-government concert, also spoke repeatedly about the external threat from Western countries.
5:45 pm During the detentions by the “Iceberg” shopping center, about 10 protesters managed to hide in the “Pink” manicure studio.
Eyewitnesses also reported seeing the detention of a journalist wearing a press vest. The journalist was detained, along with all their recording equipment.
5:46 pm People in Brest have followed the example of their fellow citizens from Minsk and are holding picnics in the courtyards to socialise with their neighbors.
6:10 pm The human rights center “Viasna” is compiling a list of the people detained at today’s Women’s March in Minsk. As of 6 pm, the list has already reached 160 names, including advertiser Yulia Leshkevich, Director of the Minsk International Film Festival Listapad, theater festival TeART organizer Anzhelika Krashevskaya, British Embassy employee Inna Romashevskaya, and feminist activist Olga Gorbunova.
The website of Viasna is accessible only via VPN.
6:22 pm Cyber Partisans are preparing a bold project entitled “Where are the police online”
“There is complete chaos and we feel it’s time for an upgrade: There is a Telegram bot, where you can add updated information about the location of security officers, alleged ambushes or places with high risk of a detention,” said the project’s organizers.
6:27 pm Organizers of a free J:MORS concert, which was scheduled for tonight, have reported on Instagram that the concert will be cancelled “due to the coronavirus.”
They stated that Emergency Situations Ministry employees had arrived, accompanied by two buses, told them that the concert cannot be held due to coronavirus.
“Employees of the Ministry of Emergency Situations came here escorted by two buses and said that there were cases of coronavirus here, so we couldn’t hold the concert.”
The Ministry of Emergency Situations reported that their employees had been asked to come and sanitize the area, and the Ministry itself had nothing to do with canceling the concert.
6:32 pm People have started gathering by different police stations in Minsk where the detainees were taken from today’s Women’s March.
6:45 pm One of the detained women is reported to have left the Sovetskiy district police station in an ambulance. She walked to the ambulance by herself. The woman told TUT.BY journalists that one of the detainees is an Italian citizen.
An officer has come out of the Leninski district police department and said that the detainees would be released within three hours.
7:06 pm Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya demands that the detained women be released.
“What’s happening in Minsk today is abuse of power. Beautiful and courageous women who protest lawfully and peacefully are being brutally arrested, in large numbers and by people without any identification. There are more than 240 Belarusian women already on the list of detainees, and there are even girls who were born in 2004.
“All detainees must be released. Law enforcement officials should remember: Belarusians are ready to reveal the identity of those who carry out criminal orders. You will still have to look your people in the eye, the very people you should protect.”
7:30 pm Near the shopping mall “Europe”, motorcyclists had some scuffle. Unidentified people tried to detain one of the motorcyclists who came to support the Women’s March; when the others started defending him, the man pulled out an object looking like a pistol. The Interior Ministry did not issue an official comment.
7:40 pm The list of people arrested during today’s Women’s March already holds more than 280 names.
7:45 pm The Telegram channel Nexta Live posted a document with the information on the first thousand Interior Ministry employees to be revealed. This information is taken from the database, which was provided to the channel by hackers.
The document contains police officers’ full names, birth dates, and job positions. “If the arrests continue, we will continue publishing this data,” warned Nexta Live.
In a separate post, they published the names and details of 7 Almaz division officers, who, according to NEXTA, are responsible for “Taraikouski’s murder, shooting at journalists. They shot through peoples’ arms, legs, heads. They left peaceful Belarusians disabled.”
8:18 pm 615 employees of the Minsk Electrotechnical Plant (METZ) sent a collective appeal to the Council of Ministers, the Supreme Court, the Minsk Oblast Executive Committee, the Minsk City Executive Committee and Profmash, in which they demand: the resignation of Lukashenko, holding new elections, the release of political prisoners, and an investigation into the torture of civilians and election fraud.
8:30 pm Musician Alexander Pomidorov was arrested. An hour and a half ago, he came to the forest park on Angarskaya to play and sing for local residents. According to eyewitnesses, Pomidorov was seized and taken to a prisoner transporter. His phone is currently unavailable. The Interior Ministry later confirmed this information.
8:34 pm At Hrodna Azot (a large chemical enterprise in Belarus), the Ammonia-3 workshop is inoperable again. Excess ammonia is being burned so that it does not explode, and fire can be seen coming out of the workshop chimney.
9:04 pm Today, near Biala-Podliaski, Coordination Council Presidium member Pavel Latushka met with Belarusian refugees – people who were forced to leave the country for political reasons.
According to various estimates, there are about 500 Belarusian refugees in Poland. In Lithuania, according to the organization “Dapamoga”, there are about 300.
9:08 pm Russia regards Tsikhanouskaya’s invitation to Brussels as interference in Belarus’ internal affairs and a violation of the UN Charter.
9:10 pm According to TUT.BY readers, people who were arrested today during the Women’s March are now being released. According to the human rights activists, at least 309 people were arrested today.
Women are being released very slowly, only a few people per hour. Their families are standing at police departments all over Minsk, waiting. It’s cold outside today, and residents of neighboring homes are bringing hot tea and sandwiches.
9:18 pm “We refuse to stay silent!” Minsk State Linguistic University students recorded a video message to the university administration.
On 4 September, students were cruelly arrested on campus for singing La Marseillaise in the hallway of their university.
9:35 pm The head of the independent trade union “Belshiny” is in a temporary detention center and has gone on a hunger strike.
Sergey Gurlo was taken from home on 12 September. Others who were released from the detention center told that the activist is not in very good health, and he has not been provided with proper medical assistance.
9:36 pm According to information from Viasna human rights center, 320 women are confirmed to have been detained today during a protest march in Minsk.
9:49 pm The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus commented on the security officials’ data leak.
“The powers, measures and technologies, which the Internal Affairs agencies have at their disposal, allow us to identify and prosecute the absolute majority of those responsible,” Interior Ministry spokeswoman Volha Chamadanava told RIA Novosti.
10:22 pm Recently, Stepan Latypov was arrested at the mural on Chervyakov Street. Then, authorities searched his apartment, and a criminal case was opened against him.
Today, Belteleradiocompany announced that Latypov intended to use poisonous substances against the police, that he “hatched plans to treat their land plots and dachas with poisonous substances, spray these substances near the riot police (OMON) and internal troops’ combat formations during protests in order to disable them.” The TV channel received this information from the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Stepan is from Ivanovo. After his studies in London, he returned home to Belarus and took up a rather unusual business – the fight against hogweed.
10:34 pm Band J:MORS, whose free concert was canceled earlier today, is giving an online concert right now, which can be viewed via this link.
10:40 pm Currently, human rights activists from the Viasna center know the names of 356 people detained at today’s Women’s March in Minsk.
10:45 pm Tomorrow at 2 pm, the March of Justice for Freedom of Speech will be held in Minsk, as well as all regional and district centers.