Riot militiamen beat opposition and tear EU flags on Solidarity Day in Belarus

An action of solidarity with political prisoners was brutally dispersed in Minsk on April 16. People who came to October square were brutally beaten by riot militiamen.

About a hundred opposition activists gathered on October square to demand the authorities to release prisoners of conscience.

Activists of the civil campaign “European Belarus”, “Young Front” and ”Young Belarus” took part in the rally. Leader of the “European Belarus” campaign Andrei Sannikov, coordinator of Charter’97 press center Zmitser Bandarenka, head of the Belarusian Popular Front party Lyavon Barshcheuski, leader of the “Young Front” Zmitser Dashkevich, co-head of the Belarusian Christian Democracy party Paval Sevyarynets, leader of the “Young Belarus” Artur Finkevich, activists of the “European Belarus” campaign Paval Yukhnevich, Maksim Vinyarski, Alyaksandr Atroshchankau, participants of the Process of 14 Artsyom Dubski, Maksim Dashuk, Anton Koipish and others came to the square.

The demonstrators were holding portraits of political prisoners and disappeared Belarusian politicians and banners “Freedom for Political Prisoners”, national and EU flags. Ten minutes later, dozens of riot militiamen came to the square and began to force people to Internatsyanalnaya Street. Riot militiamen were beating militiamen, snatching national and EU flags. A major, commander of the riot militia, blatantly tore down a portrait of former interior minister Yury Zakharanka, kidnapped in Belarus.

The demonstrators were forced out of October square to Internatsyanalnaya Street and then to Yanka Kupala Street and Bahdanovich Street. The protesters were escorted some kilometres to Atlant refrigerator plant. When the demonstrators made attempts to return to the square, riot militia forced them out again.

The protesters were shouting “Shame!”, “Fascists!”, “Freedom to political prisoners!”, “Long Live Belarus!”

“Riot militia uses an extremely mean and cynical policy during these dispersals. One can think that participants of the action were just being pushed out of the city center, but in real fact, riot militiamen were beating us cruelly. They were hitting us with their fists and feet in kidneys, legs, and backbones. Those who fell down to the ground, among them girls, were kicked, some people have serious injures,” told activists of the “European Belarus” Alyaksandr Atroshchankau, forced out of the square together with other demonstrators.

It should be reminded that Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg arrived in Minsk today, on Solidarity Day. He is to solve whether Alyaksandr Lukashenka will take part in the Eastern Partnership summit in Prague. Andrei Sannikov, leader of the civil campaign “European Belarus”, who took part in the action commented on the dispersal of a peaceful rally to the Charter’97 press center.

“We have again seen a real, not “liberal” face of the regime – a peaceful action, which can’t be called forbidden even according to Lukashenka’s laws, was brutally dispersed.

If earlier the authorities thought about their actions on days when European officials were visiting Minsk, now they are taking a clear line: Lukashenka did his best to insult Europeans. He needs Europe to shut eyes on political repressions in Belarus, and the more opinions appear in the European policy, the more chances for success Lukashenka has. That’s why riot militiamen are tearing EU flags blatantly, tearing portraits of political prisoners and disappeared politicians. The authorities count Europe will get tired of raising up a question of human rights violations in Belarus and will start with Lukashenka a business he wants – cynical economic support of the dictatorial regime. I can assure the dictator will fail. People of Belarus are able to protect their rights and will do it till victory,” Andrei Sannikov said.