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Opposition neighborhood in Minsk marks third day without running water

Source: Meduza

The Novaya Borovaya neighborhood in north-east Minsk, home to about 15,000 people, has been without running water for three days straight. The authorities say they are working on restoring the water supply, but many local residents believe that the utilities services are sabotaging the repairs as punishment for the strong support for the Belarusian opposition among residents in the neighborhood — 90 percent of whom voted for Alexander Lukashenko’s rival Svetlana Tikhanovskaya during the 2020 presidential elections.

The majority of the houses in Minsk’s Novaya Borovaya neighborhood lost water supply on Sunday, November 15. Following complaints from local residents, an emergency service came and the water supply was restored by that evening. However, it was cut off again a few hours later. As of Tuesday, November 17, only a few houses in the neighborhood have weak water pressure. The district has had to close a school and two kindergartens as a result. Some houses also lost heating for a short period of time.

Minsk residents bringing bottled water to Novaya Borovaya
Charter Vimeo

The water supply was stopped due to a damaged valve on one of the pipes bringing water to the houses from the main wells. According to the Belarusian news outlet Tut.by, repairing this type of damage shouldn’t take any more than three or four hours. The water supply company, Minskvodokanal, didn’t comment on the situation officially until the evening of November 16, more than 24 hours after the water was shut off. The company said that “all necessary measures are being taken”and admitted that the damage to the pipes could have been intentional. Experts interviewed by Tut.by said the same thing — it turned out that the valve wasn’t broken, but rather cut off with the help of tools. Then, to complicate the repairs, a nut was welded into its place using a blowtorch.

When there was still no running water on November 17, Minskvodokanal reported that the repairs had been completed and they were starting work on regulation preventative measures that are required before the system can be started up again. Also today, the state news agency BelTA reported on the lack of water supply in the neighborhood for the first time. The issue was brought to President Alexander Lukashenko’s attention during a meeting and he demanded that his aides take personal control over the matter.

Many of the neighborhood’s residents believe that the authorities cut off the water supply on purpose, as punishment for their support for the Belarusian opposition. During the 2020 presidential elections in August, polling stations in Novaya Borovaya were among the few to publish results protocols — opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya (Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya) won 90 percent of the vote in the district. In the months since the elections, the area has been a center for opposition protests; many residents regularly hang white-and-red flags from their homes (a symbol of the opposition). Employees working for the utilities services have taken the flags down repeatedly — and have continued to do so after the water supply was cut off.

On the first day without water, someone installed three portable toilets in the neighborhood, which had been painted with the white-and-red flag. RFE/RL’s Radio Svoboda called this development indirect confirmation that the damaged valve was the work of the authorities. 

Story by Grigory Levchenko

Translation by Eilish Hart

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