‘I want changes!’ Minsk court jails two sound engineers for ten days for playing a famous protest song at a pro-government event
On Friday, August 7, a Minsk court jailed sound engineers Kiryl Halanau and Uladzislau Sakalouski for ten days on administrative charges of minor hooliganism and disobedience, reports Mediazona. The court made this decision the day after Halanau and Sakalouski played the famous protest song “Khochu Peremen!” (“I Want Changes!’) by the Soviet-era rock band Kino during a pro-government concert at the Belarusian capital’s Kievsky Square. During the lead up to the 2020 presidential elections in Belarus, this particular song has been used during campaign rallies in support of opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya (Svitlana Tsikhanouskaya).
Halanau told the court that the concert itself constituted hooliganism organized by the authorities. “I was involved in hooliganism as soon as I arrived at the square. And not on my own behalf, but on behalf of the organizers — the Children and Youth Palace. This entire concert was hooliganism and I am guilty of taking part in it,” he said. Halanau noted that the people at the concert “definitely” liked the song, since they “started to clap and were having a good time.” During the hearing, he also emphasized that he didn’t resist arrest. The defense lawyer representing Halanau, Sergey Zikratsky (Syarhey Zikratski), intends to appeal the court’s decision.
Halanau and Sakalouski played the Kino song during the pro-government event after a large number of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya’s supporters arrived at the concert. Tikhanovskaya is currently considered incumbent president Alexander Lukashenko’s (Alyaksandr Lukashenka) main competitor as he runs for his sixth consecutive term in office (Lukashenko has been president of Belarus for the past 26 years).
Tikhanovskaya was supposed to hold a campaign rally at Minsk’s Druzhby Narodov Park that same day, but was forced to cancel it after the authorities announced an event in honor of Railway Troops Day at the same location, with no prior notice. Tikhanovskaya also wanted to attend the event at Kievsky Square, but never made it to the site. Her colleague Maria Kolesnikova (Maryya Kalesnikava) did come to Kievsky Square, but that police prevented her from entering the park, RFE/RL reports.
When Halanau and Sakalouski played “I Want Changes!” the people at the event began chanting “Long live Belarus!” and “Go Away!” (popular opposition slogans, typically directed against Lukashenko). At this point, the head of Minsk’s Central District Administration, Dmitry Petrusha (Dzmitry Pyatrusha), intervened and literally pulled the plug on the song, disconnecting the speakers. The authorities arrested Kiryl Halanau and Uladzislau Sakalouski following the incident (initially it was unclear if Sakalouski had been detained; loved ones couldn’t get in contact with him). On the morning of August 7, reports emerged that the two sound engineers would face trial.
Translation by Eilish Hart