Reacting to the crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Belarus, European Union leaders on Friday agreed tougher measures aimed at President Alyaksandr Lukashenka over the country`s March 19 presidential elections widely seen as having been rigged.
6 people have just been detained on the Kastrychnitskaya Square. OMON officers put them into the yellow minibus, which had been used as a fixed-run taxi # 34 before, state number ÀÀ 24 91 5. Company “BelPassazhirTrans” owns the minibus (telephone number 8-029-775-57-76). It is curious that the police are using the vehicle designed for commercial transfer and belonging to a private organization. The reasons for the arrest are also dimmed. The people just came to the Square with flowers in solidarity with the tent camp defenders who were arrested this night in Minsk. A journalist of the French newspaper “Libération” is among those detained. According to the UCP press service, the OMON officers try to thwart the journalists who are shooting the building. They attempted to take off the camera from a Polish teleoperator. At present civil people are sent away from the square along with journalist. People in muftis are arriving on the Square. Colonel Padabed is guiding the cleansing.
Reporters Without Borders said it was appalled at an unprecedented crackdown against independent journalists after the overnight arrest of nine more, bringing to 22 the number rounded up since the start of the week, 13 of whom are still in prison.
Opposition leader Aleksandr Milinkevich urged the West to be "tougher and more resolute" in its assessments of developments in Belarus. Speaking at a news conference in Minsk following an overnight crackdown on his supporters in Minsk, Mr. Milinkevich welcomed solidarity of the United States and the European Union on Belarus, but stressed that statements on support for pro-democratic forces were not sufficient. "It is necessary to send a stronger message that Belarus has experienced a constitutional coup that brought to power a man who is not eligible for it."
The European Union has described Belarus` presidential election as fundamentally flawed, promising to consider together with the United States "restrictive measures against those responsible for the violations of international electoral standards."
The Party of European Socialists (PES) has urged the European Union to impose tough sanctions against Aleksandr Lukashenko and his top officials and politicians. "Those who deprived the people of Belarus of free and fair elections should be held responsible and accountable, avoiding actions that hurt the people of Belarus," said Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, president of the party. "There can be no accommodating an authoritarian regime in modern Europe."
Mariusz Maszkiewicz, former Ambassador of Poland to Belarus, detained on the Kastrychnitskaya Square, said he had been beaten unmercifully while being transported to the isolation jail in Akrestsina Street.
Pan Maszkievicz told this to the officials of the Polish Embassy in Belarus consular service. We received the information from Monika Skadowska, the secretary of the Polish Embassy. The Polish Embassy addressed the Belarusian Foreign Office with a note of protest demanding medical examination for Mariusz Maszkiewicz.
Today in Copenhagen the Dane social-democratic youth have set up a tent camp by the Russian Embassy. The tents were pitched in solidarity with the defenders of the tent camp on the Kastrychnitskaya Square of Minsk. Moreover, the demonstrators protest against the actions of the Russian government, which upholds Lukashenka’s regime. The tent camp is to be held out for 24 hours.
Vital Vasilkou, a member of the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), one of the founders of the association’s former Magilou office and, presently, a German radio station “Deutsche Welle” correspondent accredited in Belarus, was detained in Magilou, March 23, and sentenced by the Leninski district court to the 7-day arrest for “hooliganism”.
The journalist must have been spied on, since the detention took place in the morning, 15 minutes before train’s “Magilou-Minks” departure. The journalist had the certificate of the “Deutsche Welle” correspondent. Having seen the document, policemen talked to someone on the phone, but then went on with filing the protocol “on the administrative violation”.
According to the BAJ monitoring service, the journalist might have been spied on since Mach 7, when he returned to Magilou after an international conference held in Germany (on that day people in muftis detained Vital Vasilkou after leaving the train and took all his cash “on suspicion of forged money transfer” and promised to give it back “after the examination”).
Today, by the Belarusian Embassy in Moscow, activists of Russian anarchy organizations attempted to hold a piquet in support of their friends detained in Minsk. According to “Gazieta.Ru”, the young people who gathered in Maroseika Street passed letters addressed to Belarusian dictator Aliaxandar Lukashenka. Then the policemen who were guarding the Embassy called for a backup unit and took off posters from the demonstrators. All the participants scattered, nobody detained.
In the evening news editions Russian TV channels NTV and “Rossia” continue alleging that “all women detained yesterday night on October Square of Minsk are released”, and crackdown on protesters’ camp has become “one of the most humane police operations in the Belarusian history”. We remind the Russian journalists again, that evidence of the detainees and human rights activists shows that the people were beaten up. Moreover, one could clearly see in the footage of the NTV channel that people were forcibly hauled to the paddy wagons. The human rights center “Viasna” publishes the list of women arrested yesterday night in Minsk. 59 of them have been held in buses by the building of the Minsk regional executive committee in Starabarysauski Trakt in Minsk for the whole day. Some reports say that they are to stand trial on Monday. 9 more women are kept in the pre-trial detention center in Akrestsyn (Okrestin) Street. Some of them, for instance, Axana Senchanka, are sentenced to 15 days of arrest.
For the four days of the tent camp existence on October Square in Minsk, law-enforcers and state media have been organizing provocations against peaceful demonstrators. First a drunken worker of the Belarusian TV came to the square. He played a defender of the camp in front of the cameras of the state TV. Then skinheads harassed young protesters and provoked a fight. They insulted people and attacked them with blows. Besides, vodka bottles were planted to the tents of the dwellers of the camp, and video cameras of the Belarusian TV filmed that at once. Now we publish their photos:
Riot policemen and policemen are pushing out people from October Square. Minsk dwellers have come to the square with flowers as a sign of solidarity with the tent camp defenders arrested today. After the police sweep people go to the square again. Now there are more than 100 people there. However, riot policemen do not allow to stay on the square and push people out to the direction of the Great Patriotic War Museum.
Dozens of people have brought flowers today at 6 p.m. to October Square, as a sign of solidarity with defenders of the camp swept last night by riot policemen. Hundreds of people were arrested, many of them beaten up. Policemen reacted to the peaceful action of people who brought flowers aggressively. People were pushed out of the square. All of them, including journalists, are threatened to be confined to the detention center in Akrestsyn (Okrestin) Street.
Today for the whole day hundreds of people are coming to the October Square in Minsk. Until yesterday’s night a tent camp stood. Minsk dwellers discuss the unprecedented cruelty of the riot policemen, express indignation, and say about the desire they had to come to this “territory of freedom” every day, when young patriots were holding the fort heroically. Policemen, however, are afraid that the camp would be restored again, and they do not allow young men to gather in groups more than 10 persons. Citizens are told to disband and not to form groups.
In Antwerp (Belgium) a rally was held in front of the building of the Russian consulate. The protest was aimed against Russian government’s support to the Belarusian regime. The picket by the Russian mission in Antwerp was organized by the members of the Belarusian – European Association. Participants of the protest were holding white-red-white flags and a streamer with the slogan: “Shame to President Putin for supporting usurper Lukashenka”.
A photo editor of the independent Belarusian newspaper “Nasha Niva” Artsyam Lyava, who was near the camp on October Square this night, has been sentenced to 15 days of arrest by Frunzenski district court of Minsk. A string correspondent of the newspaper, Tatsyana Snitko, is among the detainees. As we have informed, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper Andrei Dynko, was arrested for his attempt to bring food to the tents on March 22.
The TV channel “Russia” has informed today again that the sweep of the tent camp was “one of the most humane ones”, that “all girls and women were released after detention”, and parents were allowed to take off the underage. At the same time, the Foreign Minister of Russia, a country presiding in the European Union, Sergei Lavrov, noted that the authorities of Belarus acted in obedience to the law when they attacked the tent camp on October Square. It’s one more time Russian journalists and officials are caught out in telling lies: as said by the detainees and human rights activists, the protesters were treated extremely harsh, many of them were kicked and clubbed, and girls remain under arrest and are under trial now. And Mr Lavrov’s statements that a brutal disband of a peaceful rally is absolutely legal, causes a question: how a country approving repressions and dictatorship can preside in G8?
Among the detainees there is a 22-year-old guy, who managed to hide a mobile phone. He told to the Radio Svaboda that he was transported in the last bus. There were about 70 detainees there. They were ordered to line up along the wall. When guards were absent, he called the Radio Svaboda and told the names of people near him. “Everybody is placed near the barrier and made set heads against the concrete wall. We are standing for an hour in the freezing temperatures. They came, wrote down our names, birth dates, nationality. Underage were taken somewhere, and then the girls were taken to the building. They have not told anything to us, they are only joking that nobody would bring hot tea to us. They asked whether it was good on the square. It seems that nobody had been beaten up yet, but before we were packed to the paddy wagons, a blow or two were delivered to everybody,” the young man said.
While covering the night assault some Russian TV channels on October Square in Minsk, they reported that policemen detained people “humanely”, and, moreover, all girls were soon released. The Russian channels are lying: half an hour ago three paddy wagons appeared by the Interior Affairs Department of Minsk regions executive committee. They are filled with girls detained in the night. Many of them are beaten up.
Activists from the tent camp arrested today night are taken to the courts of Partyzanski, Maskouski, Frunzenski, Savetski, Kastrychnitski, Leninski districts. Part of the people is transferred to the Interior Affairs Department of Minsk city executive committee. One of the detained girls, Darya Zyalinskaya, fainted, and an ambulance was called in. As the Charter’97 press center informs, the girl was almost unconscious and could not speak.
45 underage protesters have been released from the special detention center today. They had been arrested during the police operation against the encampment this night. Reporters, human rights watchdogs and the single opposition candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich met them in front of the detention center.
Yesterday evening a news editor of the state Belarusian TV Pavel Shemchuk has become one of the “drunken” provokators who postured in front of TV cameras on the square in the center of Minsk. His portrait from the site http://sota.8k.com/index.html and pictured made yesterday on the square could be compared by anyone. We collect all these pictures.
The exact whereabouts of all detained participants of the tent camp are still unknown. Part of the detainees was taken to the special detention center in Akrestsyn Street, part of them - to remand prison in Valadarski Street. It is unknown where other people could be. The detainees managed to inform on the phone that they were transported to the outskirts of Minsk or outside the city, supposedly to the settlement of Navinki. We offer you pictures made by the walls of the special detention center at the moment when young Belarusian patriots are brought there.
Workers of the special detention center in Akrestsyn Street refuse to pass food to the protesters from the tent camp, arrested today. Now their friends, parents and colleagues are by the walls of the detention center. The atmosphere is extremely oppressive: mothers are crying, asking to release their children.
As the Charter’97 press center has found out, about 60 people were taken to the detention center in Akrestsyn Street from October Square. It is unknown were the rest of the people is. About the preliminary information, about 300 protesters were detained. There is information that as the special detention center at the moment is filled to capacity by oppositionists detained in the day before the tent camp clearing; the detainees were forced to stand in the corridor face to the wall the whole night (March 23-24). The most horrible thing is that people were allowed to go to the lavatory only if they had passports. Those who hadn’t passports were not allowed to go to the lavatory.
Former Polish Ambassador in Belarus Mariusz Maszkiewicz was detained during the storming of the protesters’ tent camp. The Radio Svaboda has contacted him right after the detention. “I ask to advise Polish Foreign Ministry to arrive as soon as possible. People are hauled [to cars], the square is cordoned off. Everybody has sat to the ground, and they were hauled one by one – by an arm, by a leg, by hair, And then they were beaten up in the paddy wagons”.
“I think that world’s reaction to the developments in Belarus would be harsh and consolidated, and it’s very important. I am also interested by the position of Moscow. Moscow is becoming more and more estranged from the position of the civilized world. It is known that it influences the situation in Belarus. I would like Moscow to assess the developments justly. It shouldn’t support a bankrupt regime, the regime that violates rape the Constitution,” Alyaksandr Milinkevich said, commenting on the police’s sweeping into a tent camp in the center of Minsk to the Radio Svaboda.
One of detained defenders of tent camp managed to call to the Radio Svaboda. He said that about 100 people are placed to a territory of some police camp. “Now we are at the territory of some police camp. I cannot say what it is, but it’s some place of confinement. We are freezing here for a long time already, for about two hours and a half. Nobody is taken out, that is why I ask people, everybody who can, to gather on the square on March 15. For our sake, for the sake of the people, for the future of our nation,” said a young man, who had not told his name.
As the Charter`97 press center was informed by Tatsyana Snitko, who was detained by police together with tent camp dwellers, people in buses were beaten up. As she told, many young men have smashed faces, and policemen used foul language and threatened. During the detention policemen ordered: everybody on the floor, faces down!
Today at 3.30 a.m. hundreds of riot policemen and policemen have attacked tent camp on October Square in Minsk. At 3 a.m. 10 police buses and patrol wagons for prisoners encircled the square. Policemen cordoned off the whole square. All reporter were drawn out of the cordons. Then several hundreds of people who were in the tent camp this bight were arrested. All of them where taken to the police buses and trucks, and taken to unknown location. Now only destroyed tents stay on the square. The life of the tent camp was trampled on by boots of policemen and police: national flags, posters, streamers, warm things, dishes. Everything is loaded to cars by street sweepers. Information has been received from people from police trucks that some special means were employed against them. People complain that some gas was used inside one of the white trucks.