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.