Minsk riot policemen prevented holding peaceful rally “Chernobyl Way” in the centre of Minsk.
The spot near the Academy of Sciences was a sanctioned assembly point for participants. At the noon about a thousand and a half protesters gathered there. Protesters raised white-red-white flags, unfurled streamers “We oppose nuclear power station construction in Belarus”, “No to new Chernobyl”, “Return us our welfare benefits”, “No to chemical Chernobyl”, “No to toxic chemicals plant near Minsk”, “We are against nuclear reactor”. Dozens of white-red-white flags and flags of the European Union were fluttering.
Leaders of the Belarusian opposition took part in the demonstration. Among them were Andrei Sannikov, coordinator of the civil campaign “European Belarus”, leaders of the Belarusian Popular Front Lyavon Barshcheuski, Vintsuk Vyachorka and Viktar Ivashkevich, the chairman of the United Civil Party Anatol Lyabedzka, the chairman of the Belarusian Communist Party Syarhei Kalyakin, the leader of “Jeans for Freedom campaign” Yauhen Afnagel, the leader of the “Young Belarus” Artur Finkevich, the leader of the “Young Front” Zmitser Dashkevich, a co-chairman of the Belarusian Christian Democracy party Pavel Sevyarynets, well-known scientists, participants and Chernobyl disaster cleanup veterans.
A short meeting was held near the Academy of Sciences. Leaders of the Belarusian Popular Front party and an associate of the Academy of Sciences Ivan Nikitchanka called upon the regime not to hush up the aftermaths of the Chernobyl catastrophe at the state level, to return welfare benefits to people affected by the disaster and cleanup veterans, and not to construct the atomic power station in Belarus.
After that the participants were to decide in what way they are to march to the Chernobyl chapel, where a prayer service had been planned. As we have informed, earlier Minsk city executive committee replied to the application of the organizers of “Chernobyl Way” march that the column of demonstrators can march from the building of the National Academy of Sciences via “October” cinema along Khmelnitski, Kujbyshau, Surhanau Streets and to the Chernobyl Chapel on Bangalore Square.
Initiators of the “Chernobyl Way” found the route of the march offered by the authorities inacceptable and were set to hold the demo from the building of the Academy of Sciences along Independence Avenue, Yakub Kolas Square, Vera Kharuzhaya Street, Bahdanovich, Kulman, Karastayanava Streets to the Chernobyl Chapel.
Before the demonstration started, the BPF leader Lyavon Barshcheuski called upon policemen not to prevent the passage of the column along Independence Avenue to Yakub Kolas Square, for them to walk along Vera Kharuzhaya Street, Bahdanovich and Karastayanava Streets, where the church is situated, as it is difficult for so many people to march along Surhanau Street where repair works are taking place. However, representatives of Minks city executive committee refused meet initiators halfway, saying that it is forbidden to hold marches in Independence Square.
At 1 p.m. the deputy chairman of the BPF Viktar Ivashkevich announced the beginning of the march. About 1.5 thousand of people crossed the street in a subway crossing and lined along “October” cinema in Independence Square. Organisers of the rally called protesters to go to Yakub Kolas Square and go to Chernobyl Chapel from there. However, a cordon of several dozens of riot policemen with truncheons was sent against the protesters.
A deputy chairman of the Main Directorate of Internal Affairs of Minsk city executive committee warned the deputy chairman of the BPF party Viktar Ivashkevich about responsibility for violation of the rules of the mass rally. Law-enforcers demanded protesters to march along Surhanau Street to along Khmelnitski Street. Ivashkevich’s statements that it is impossible to go there because of repair of the road were ignored by police commanding officers. About 100 persons headed by the “Young Belarus” leader Artur Finkevich headed to the riot police chain. Other demonstrators rested where they stood.
Viktar Ivashkevich called upon demonstrators remain unprovoked by secret services: “You see that authorities have sent riot policemen against a peaceful rally,” he addressed the participants. “I call upon you not to be drawn and walk along the official route Surhanau- Khmelnitski- Karastayanava- the Chernobyl Chapel.”
In order to prevent provocations by the regime, protesters walked the route sanctioned by the Minsk city executive committee. In Surhanau Street near street railway a group of young people who called themselves anarchists, broke away from the column and said they will go their way. Riot policemen encircled the anarchists, and after that they joined the other protesters.
Participants of the rally marched towards the chapel of Icon of Our Lady “Seeking of the Lost”. Protesters chanted “Long live Bleraus!”, “We believe, we can, we shall win!”, “Power to the people! Freedom to the young!” “We have one road – Belarus should go to God!” Protesters were followed by riot policemen and policemen. A car was carrying out a video footage.
At 2.35 p.m. near the Chernobyl chapel a ceremony in remembrance of the Chernobyl catastrophe victims took place. Paval Sevyarynets, the leader of the “Belarusian Christian Democracy party” addressed the people. He reminded that in 1986 almost the entire territory of Belarus was contaminated by radiation, and the Belarusian authorities are concealing the consequences of the catastrophe until now. After that participants of the “Chernobyl Way” sang the Belarusian national anthem “Mighty God”.