Live blog: Protests in Belarus, day five
The opposition protests in Belarus are now continuing for the fifth day in a row, following Sunday’s contested presidential elections. Belarusian citizens are taking to the streets in demonstration against the official results of the vote, which claim that incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko (Alyaksandr Lukashenka) won by a landslide (thereby extending his already 26-year rule). There have also been calls for a general strike. On Thursday, August 12, media reports emerged that workers at various Belarusian enterprises were joining the protests and even demanding Lukashenko’s resignation (management at these enterprises are denying the existence of the strikes).
Today was a peaceful one
After four nights of mass arrests, beatings, stun grenades, and rubber bullets, Thursdayʼs opposition demonstrations were remarkably peaceful. Protesters marched throughout the day and evening, but riot police kept their distance for a change.
Despite rhetoric from demonstrators and state officials alike «against violence,» thousands of people remain locked up in jails and prisons. People who have been released from these facilities tell horror stories of abuse and even torture. Znak.com correspondent Nikita Telizhenko shared his own harrowing tale, which Meduza summarized in English. Read this excerpt and send the story to your friends:
The officers continued to beat people, this one for a tattoo, that one for long hair. «You faggot, in prison now theyʼll take turns with your ass,» the guards shouted. Anyone who asked to shift positions was clobbered in the head, says Telizhenko, who only learned at this point that he was in the custody of the Belarusian special forces, not the riot police, as he thought initially.
If the officers didnʼt like your name or your tattoos or even your face, permission to stretch or adjust positions was denied. «Later, they said any attempt to change positions would be treated as an attempt to escape, which meant being shot on the spot,» Telizhenko says.
Folks, it looks like Lukashenko probably wonʼt be addressing the Belarusian people tonight, after all. Youʼll have to content your hearts with Thursdayʼs earlier public remarks by the interior minister and chair of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly.
The Hulk himself has had enough of Alexander Lukashenko (though his emoji use doesnʼt honor the older Belarusian flag that protesters have embraced).
Mediazona reports that there is no official source for the announcement about Lukashenko preparing to make an address: this information first appeared on an anonymous Telegram channel.
President Alexander Lukashenko is preparing an urgent appeal to the people of Belarus, his spokesperson says .
An apartment building in Minsk right now.
Viktor Babrikoʼs headquarters has announced that seven of its volunteers were arrested, Radio Svaboda reports. The charges against them remain unknown due to a gag order.
So far todayʼs protests have proceeded peacefully. Whereas law enforcement officers previously attempted to violently disperse and arrest protesters using truncheons, stun grenades, water cannons, and/or rubber bullets, this doesnʼt appear to be happening today.
Three posters have been hung on the Bison Sculpture on Dzerzhinsky Avenue in downtown Minsk. The signs read «Police with the people,» «We arenʼt against you,» and «Weʼre against violence.»
A demonstration in solidarity with the Belarusian protests in Berlin today.
In Vitebsk, nearly 1,000 people are marching and chanting «We believe! We can! We will win!» reports Belsat.
Pushkin Square in Minsk, right now.
Pushkin Square in Minsk right now. People have continued to leave flowers to commemorate Alexander Taraykovsky — the protester who was killed at this location on August 10.
A map of the largest enterprises now on strike in Belarus. Workers are demanding an end to the violence against peaceful protesters and a recount of the votes from last weekʼs presidential election.
Belarusʼs top police official is advising people not to go out on the streets. «How [do we] stop the violence? Thereʼs no need to exacerbate the situation, to go out on the street and provoke riots. Public order is very fragile […] Many countries have long envied our safety and tranquility! Why are we destroying all of that now? Because of ephemeral and incomprehensible goals? The riots will destroy everything we take pride in!»
Protesters have blocked Pritytsky Street near the Pushkin Metro Station in Minsk.
Belarusʼs top cop says he abhors violence against journalists. The folks at Onlinerby have compiled a brief video showing just a few random incidents where law enforcement in Belarus (officers under the interior ministerʼs command) attacked defenseless journalists without any apparent provocation.
«The president has ordered an investigation of all facts related to the arrests»
According to Chair of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly Natalya Kochanova, President Lukashenko has «heard the views of labor collectives and ordered an investigation of all facts related to the arrests that have occurred in recent days.» Kochanova says the Belarusian authorities are already racing to follow through on these instructions and officials released more than 1,000 detainees on August 13, under the obligation not to participate in further unpermitted public assemblies. Minors, meanwhile, have been returned to their parents» custody, she said.
In remarks to state television, Belarusian Interior Minister Yuri Karaev insisted that «most people donʼt support the protests» and said «people are unhappy about these „chaos zones“ that werenʼt created by the police,» citing tire fires, Molotov cocktails, and pyrotechnics.
Nikita Telizhenkoʼs experience behind bars in Belarus
Belarusian Interior Minister Yuri Karaev told state television that he takes responsibility for the bystanders injured by police trying to disperse demonstrators across the country. Heʼs formally apologized to the public.
Karaev also accused demonstrators of building road barricades and attacking police officers on August 11, meaning that these protest were not peaceful. The minister warned that «color revolutions» mask themselves as expressions of peace.
Belarusian Health Ministry says it opposes violence
In an official statement, the ministry said, «As doctors, we took an oath to protect and preserve the most valuable thing a person has — their life and health — and we cannot watch indifferently as these events unfold. The lives and health of our nationʼs citizens (all citizens without exceptions) are priceless.
We appeal to all our compatriots: stop the spiral of violence on our cities» streets. Thereʼs no need to provoke each other!»
Yesterday, on August 12, Belarusian I.T. entrepreneurs offered financial assistance to police officers who want to resign. According to «PandaDoc» founder Sergey Borisyuk, his group has heard from more than 30 officers in the past 24 hours.
In Minsk, women peace demonstrators are handing out flowers to riot police and the officers are accepting the gifts.
Athletes are now calling to task the Belarusian police crackdown. Current soccer coach and former goalkeeper Vasil Khamutowski has shared a video on Instagram where he calls on the authorities not to use violence against peaceful protesters.
«Radio Svaboda» releases the name of the protester killed in Minsk on August 10
The deceased is Alexander Taraykovsky. He was identified on August 13, thanks to his wife.
Belarusian officials have yet to confirm the identity of the person killed. However, police officials previously stated that the individual in question had served seven years in prison for «causing serious bodily harm resulting in death.» According to Taraykovskyʼs wife and one of his friends, he was in fact tried on these charges — allegedly, he was defending his mother from a roommate.
Taraykovskyʼs wife doesnʼt believe the official cause of death (according to police officials he was killed after an «unknown explosive device» went off in his hands). His wife claims that he left home wearing shorts and a t-shirt, and carrying his phone. Around 10:30 p.m. local time he called to say he was coming home. After that, his family knew nothing about his whereabouts until his body was identified on August 13.
More than 40 journalists from state and independent media have written a letter to Belarusian Information Minister Igor Lutsky, reports Tut.by. They are asking him to take urgent measures to prevent law enforcement officers from attacking and arresting their colleagues. Theyʼre also asking the authorities not to block Internet access. Hereʼs an excerpt:
«The fact that many of our colleagues from state media quit today is not fake news, nor is it a political strategy, or a paid PR move. This is a call of conscience and an inability to watch the ongoing violence calmly.»
A soldier giving flowers to protesters in Smorgoń (Grodno Region). «I swore an oath to the people,» he says.
At least ten people are conducting a solidarity action in the village of Vishnevka (Minsk Region) — home to just 43 residents, thatʼs a quarter of the villageʼs population, writes Tut.by.
Employees at the technology company Rozum Robotics have announced an indefinite strike, CEO and founder Viktor Khamenok tells Tut.by. «We have a company employee who has disappeared — one of our top managers. The situation is tense, everyone is afraid to go to work. As the [company] leader, I am speaking with the employees and trying to resolve the situation, but they are insisting on a strike,» he said.
About 200 employees from the Janka Kupała National Theater in Minsk have put out a call demanding an end to the violence and a recount of the votes in the presence of independent observers. The theater is ready to go on strike.
According to the Belarusian Journalists» Association, 23 journalists are still in custody in Belarus. At least 68 journalists have been arrested there since Sunday, August 9. The association has also recorded 29 acts of violence against members of the press.
The presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia have offered to act as mediators to help resolve the political tensions in Belarus.
Sovetskaya Street in Minsk right now.
Plans for this evening
Throughout the day today people in Belarus gathered in peaceful rallies opposing violence — many formed solidarity chains. The opposition Telegram channel Nexta Liva is calling on residents of Minsk to come out and demonstrate in their respective neighborhoods this evening, and encouraging residents of other cities to rally in their respective city centers.
«Medical workers against violence» rally in Grodno
Restaurants on Independence Avenue in Minsk are leaving water out for protesters.
Healthcare workers holding flowers have rallied on an island in the middle of an intersection in Brest. People are applauding them from the sidewalk, writes Tut.by.
Police Inspector Ivan Kolos has left the country
Yesterday, police inspector Ivan Kolos, who is from the Belarusian city of Gomel, recorded a video message calling on his colleagues not to use force against protesters. According to him, his superiors arrived at his home twenty minutes after the video went up — Kolos refused to open the door, and instead threw his badge and ID to them from the balcony.
Kolos told Radio Svaboda that he has left the country and canʼt return as of yet; apparently, he was tipped off about the fact that his superiors are looking for information that could compromise him.
«An appeal from the academic community of the Republic of Belarus»
Onliner has published the text of an appeal from young academics, signed by more than one thousand people. Employees from the Belarusian Academic of Sciences were the «pioneers» behind the appeal, but the academyʼs leadership is unhappy with the letter, the newspaper says.
Here are some excerpts:
…We are deeply hurt and outraged at the actions of the authorities in the Republic of Belarus, [who are], in recent days, unreasonably using force of unprecedented scale and cruelty against thousands of peaceful Belarusians.
…We call on all of those responsible for disconnecting the Internet not to do this again, as it leads to severe economic and social consequences for all citizens, regardless of their political convictions.
We, the undersigned researchers, teachers, and employees of the academic institutions of the Republic of Belarus, demand:
- An immediate end to any violence against peaceful citizens
- The release of all detained demonstrators and political prisoners
Major police development
The Belarusian Supreme Court has released a list containing 500 names of people arrested in Minsk since Sunday (the BBC Russian Service first reported on the appearance of the list). The people listed have been sentenced to between four and 25 days in jail, the majority were given 15 days.
At the time of writing, the link to the release on the Belarusian Supreme Courtʼs website couldnʼt be accessed — itʼs giving a 404 error.
Spiderman and Batman stopping by to drop off food to protesters.
Check out these protest-inspired artworks by Belarusian embroidery artist Rufina Bazlova.
She wrote on Instagram that she will be releasing t-shirts featuring her work. The proceeds from the sales will go towards helping «the victims of the regime.»
More than 130 employees at the company Terrazit Plus in Grodno have declared an indefinite strike. Meanwhile, the Belarusian Automobile Plant (BelAZ) has declared August 14 a day off, so workers «wouldnʼt be tempted to organize a strike,» Radio Svaboda says, citing the companyʼs employees. Earlier in the day, factory workers at BelAZ held a meeting to demand the withdrawal of riot police from the city of Zhodino (where the factory is located).
The European Union will introduce new sanctions against Belarus by the end of August, sources tell Reuters.
Law enforcement officers in Minsk have begun making arrests in the city center, reports Sputnik Belarus.
Nasha Niva reports that «thousands of people» are standing along Malinovka Street in Minsk. Passersby are handing out water and pizza to the demonstrators in the chain.
A potential «photo of the day.»
People carrying signs that read «We are against violence» have gathered on the steps of the Belarusian National Arts Museum in Minsk.
One of the workers from the rally at the Minsk Tractor Factory told Tut.by that their demands are as follows
- Release everyone detained during peaceful rallies
- Remove riot police from the streets
- Hold fair re-elections in the presence of international observers
- Release all political prisoners
Employees from the Belarusian State Philharmonic gathered on the steps of the building to sing the countryʼs unofficial «religious anthem.» The signs they are holding form the phrase «They stole my voice.»
A man presenting flowers to traffic police in Navapolatsk (Vitebsk Region).
Belarusian users can no longer access the website of the Russian outlet Mediazona — Euroradio.
A group of women with white balloons have gathered in the city center in Zaslawye (Minsk Region).
Spotted in the Kamennaya Gorka neighborhood in Minsk: «Everything is so bad that even the introverts have come out.»
Statement from the Yandex press service
«Today employees from the [Department for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption] conducted searches at two Yandex offices [Yandex and Uber] in Minsk. Several Yandex employees were at the office at that time. The reasons for the search werenʼt detailed in the search warrants. No equipment or documents were seized during the search. Officials didnʼt make any arrests at the end of the search.»
Radio Svaboda: Around 100–200 people are marching in the streets of Vitebsk, chanting «Vitebsk, come out!»
Paddy wagons, armored vehicles, and unmarked buses are arriving in downtown Minsk, as well as backhoes, reports Tut.by.
The armed men have left the Yandex office in Minsk, reports RIA Novosti. According to Sputnik Belarus, they have left the Uber office, as well. Uber has temporarily suspended operations in Belarus «due to the current situation.»
Sources told Kuku that the raids were being conducted by officers from the Belarusian Department for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption.
Belarusian media are still sharing photos and videos of workers rallying at various enterprises. The photo below shows a meeting at the Integral electronics factory.
The relatives of detainees have been gathering outside of a detention center in Minsk for several days now, trying to find out what happened to their loved ones. Hereʼs what one mother had to say:
«Thereʼs no protocol for Dmitry at the courts either. «Whatʼs the hold up? I donʼt know. But [I] canʼt just sit at home. You simply canʼt sit at home. I donʼt know what will happen tomorrow. Weʼll probably come here with pitchforks! I donʼt know any other way of getting the truth.»
The detaineeʼs mother added that she was prepared to accept whatever punishment might be handed to her son — be it a fine or jail time. All she asks is that they tell her where her son is and how long «he will be locked up.»
French Ambassador to Belarus Didier Canesse lays flowers at the site near the Pushkin Metro Station in Minsk where a protester was killed on Tuesday.
Ambassadors from other countries have also come to lay flowers there, reports Radio Svaboda.
The Belarusian Investigative Committee and the State Control Committeeʼs Department of Financial Investigations have both denied that the their employees are behind todayʼs raids at the Minsk offices of Yandex and Uber, reports Sputnik Belarus.
Several thousand people have gathered near the Pushkin Metro Station in Minsk (the location where a protester was killed on Tuesday night when, according to police officials, an «unidentified explosive device» went off in his hands). According to Mediazonaʼs correspondent, «People arenʼt shouting slogans, they are all smiling and waving flowers.» There are no police at the protest site as of yet.
Earlier today, unidentified armed men raided the Minsk offices of Yandex and Uber. Although most company employees are working remotely, some staff members were trapped inside during the searches. Whether or not these raids are in connection to an official investigation remains unknown.
Belarusian women took to the streets to form solidarity chains once again today. Dressed in white and carrying flowers, these women are peacefully demonstrating in support of protesters injured by police. Law enforcement officers have not interfered in these rallies.
Good morning. Weʼre back with another live blog to cover day five of the sustained protests in Belarus. Every night since Sunday August 9, the last day of the presidential elections, Belarusians have come out in protest; theyʼve barricaded streets and sometimes clashed with riot police. In turn, law enforcement and military officers have been violently dispersing and arresting protesters using truncheons, stun grenades, and rubber bullets. Theyʼve even gone so far as to break the windows of passing cars and have pulled drivers from their vehicles, in order to arrest them and beat them up.