Today the KGB of Belarus (Committee for State Security) has officially informed about detention of 4 citizens, charged with organizing illegal civil association. The Interfax was informed about that by the spokesman of the KGB Valery Nadtachaeu. In the framework of the criminal case Mikola Astrejka, Enira Branitskaya, Alyaksandr Shalajka and Tsimafej Dranchuk were detained, the Radio Svaboda informs.
The external policy commission of Latvian parliament condemns yesterday’s detentions of civil society activists in Minsk and calls upon the world community to take a strong stand on this issue. “As a democratic state, Latvia cannot take a fact of mass arrests of oppositionists, as it openly runs counter to the human rights principles,” the statement of the commission reads.
An award-giving ceremony of Yury Zakharanka prize “Unvisored” has taken place in Minsk. This year a well-known human rights activist, deputy chairman of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee Harry Pahanyajla has become its laureate. The award has been founded by the movement “Fatherland’s Defenders”. It was conferred by Aleh Vouchak, the leader of the movement. Last year the first laureate of the award was General Valery Fralou.
At the moment a search is carried out in the editorial office of an independent newspaper “Zhoda”. The Charter’97 press center was informed about that by the editor-in-chief of the newspaper Alyaksei Karol.
Today, February 22, Latvian association “Open Belarus” has distributed information about arrests of independent observers in upcoming presidential elections in Belarus: the leaders of the civil initiative “Partnerstva” Mikalay Astrejka, Enira Branitskaya and Alyaksandr Shalajka, and an opposition activist Tsimafej Dranchuk.
“Latvia, as a neighbour of Belarus, should condemn the actions of the Belarusian authorities. The responsible persons of the EU and USA must state clearly, that such actions would not stay unnoticed, and would be punished. We cannot speak about transparent and fair elections in Belarus in the situation when the authorities apply open repressions against the civil society. That is why I call upon the politicians of the EU and US to consider the possibility of introduction of concrete sanctions against those who are behind arrests of oppositionists. For instance, I propose imposing visa bans for those who are directly accountable for these developments in Belarus,” reads the statement of the deputy of the European Parliament, Vice Chairman of EU Parliamentary Delegation for Relations with Belarus Aldis Kuskis, received by the Charter’97 press-center. In this way the MEP has commented on yesterday’s arrests of public activists in Minsk and searches in the apartments of independent observers.
Jeans has become a symbol of freedom. It is deluging Belarusian cities. Every day thousands of jeans ribbons appear on monuments, fences, lampposts, and on the clothes of young people in dozens of towns and cities.
As Information Agency REGNUM reports, a statement expressing deep concern on the situation in Belarus was made February 21, in the Estonian Parliament. 58 deputies supported the statement. It is mentioned in the statement that “the regime executed by Aliaxandar Lukashenka restricted democratic freedoms in the country, persecuting politically those who adhere to alternative points of view and limiting free Mass Media”
Candidate for the President’s post of the democratic forces Alyaxandr Milinkevich arrives in Vitsiebsk Region, February 23-25. The Belarusian opposition leader is to visit Lepel, Orsha, Vitsiebsk, Navapolatsk, Polatsk.
“A practice of executing Articles of the Criminal Code which were added last year and worked out by the KGB, has started in Belarus,” the human rights center “Viasna” informs, commenting on the detentions of public activists Tsimafej Dranchuk, Mikalay Astrejka and Alyaksei Shalajka. As we have informed, Dranchuk’s relatives were told that they he was detained for three days as a suspect for performing actions under Article 193 Part 2 of the Criminal Code (organizing or leading a religious association or a political party, that entrench the rights or obligations of citizens, or leading an unregistered organization).
A sitting of the Presidium of united democratic forces National Committee took place February 21, in Minsk. At the sitting the preliminary outcome of the National Committee’s activity was discussed and the working scheme for the election campaign was determined.
Last evening around 10 p.m. in Magilou, Uladzimer Shantsau, the head of the democratic candidate Magilou regional headquarters, was detained near his office. Mr. Shantsau was delivering 26 000 official election leaflets of Alyaxandr Milinkevich and 400 issues of the newspaper “Tovarisch” from Minsk to Magilou Region.
As Derk Schubel, head of the politics department of the EC office on Ukraine and Belarus, located in Kiev, told Radio Svaboda, the European Commission plans to introduce the post of Charge d’affaires on Belarus. According to Radio Svaboda, appointed to the post one month ago, today Mr. Schubel is on his first official visit to Belarus.
On February 21 the press service of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Belarus issued a statement concerning an article “Political creative works”, illustrated by cartoons, including an image of Prophet Muhammad, in the newspaper “Zhoda” of February 18-26.
Some 10 pollsters have been authorized to conduct surveys dealing with the ongoing presidential race. As Igor Kotlyarov, chairman of the opinion poll panel at the Belarusian National Academy of Sciences, told BelaPAN, the pollsters include both Belarusian and Russian sociological research centers, in particular the Institute for Social, Political and Economic Research at the Presidential Administration, the sociological services of the Gomel and Grodno Regional Executive Committees, and the Ekoom pollster.
Aleksandr Makayev, a small business leader in Minsk, said he would move ahead with plans for organizing a nationwide two-day strike. United in a coordinating council, a group of small business leaders aim to organize the strike to protest draft amendments that would toughen penalties for violations of rent and accounting regulations by market vendors.
On March 6 in Amsterdam a protest against violations of human rights in Belarus will be staged. The action would be organized by the international human rights organization “Amnesty International”. Its participants plan to hitch-hike via the Netherlands, Germany and Poland up to the Belarusian border.