21 September 2020 | Infocenter Free Belarus 2020
8:00 am According to the human rights center “Viasna”, 167 people were arrested yesterday in Minsk, and 69 – in the regions.
8:05 am Ales Bialyatsky, head of the human rights center “Viasna”, spoke about repressions in the country and human rights activists’ work in these circumstances to Nastoyashchaya Vremya.
“The authorities claim that 430 were arrested during yesterday’s women’s solidarity rally (the rally on Saturday – INFOCENTER FREE BELARUS 2020). Do you know how many of them still remain in custody?”
“According to the Interior Ministry, 430 were arrested. This number can be believed in. According to our lists, it was about 400 people, but naturally, we cannot catch all. 415 were arrested during the Women’s March, a few others were arrested during the yard meetings which were held in a dozen places all over Minsk. Among them, Aleksandr Pomidorov and his colleague, both well-known musicians, were arrested while playing a yard concert. They were arrested, and they happened to be taken to Akrescina (detention center – Ed.).
“Overall, the number of people who went through administrative arrests or just detentions is now off scale. This, in fact, has never happened in the history of Belarus. Before election day, approximately 1,700 people had been arrested. After August 9 – already nearly 12,000. We have some simply colossal numbers of people, but people do not give up, people continue to resist, and this figure is not final.”
“Is this a usual rate for Belarus, or is it unprecedented in the history of the country?”
“It’s an incredible rate. Usually, even during the election years, in 2006 or 2010, we had up to 3,000 people per year who were subjected to repression. But now we clearly have numbers of a completely different kind. And what is most unpleasant and most dangerous are criminal cases. Now, people punished for political reasons are either in prison or on bail, which means their cases are considered criminal, but others with similar cases are at home, about 300 people.
“Last week, sadly, Maria Rabkova, our colleague from the human rights center “Viasna”, was also arrested, she is accused of financing the riots. This is completely absurd. She is a coordinator of the Viasna volunteer service, which really monitored the situation during the rallies, which helped people who are in prison now, formed programs, and collected information about the detainees. This is absolutely transparent, 100% human rights work, but nevertheless, these repressions have already affected human rights defenders.”
8:10 am According to Viktar Babaryka’s headquarters, on 21 September, the Minsk City Court will consider the defense appeal of the Coordination Council Presidium member Maria Kalesnikava against the prosecutor’s decision issuing a sanction for a preventive measure in the form of arrest.
Maria Kalesnikava is currently in the pre-trial detention center of the Zhodzina prison, according to official information.
8:21 am In Hrodna, about a thousand demonstrators took part in the March of Justice. Dozens of people were detained.
Protesters with white-red-white flags gathered on Sovetskaya Street near a street musician, sang and danced with him, chanted, “Long live Belarus!”
Then the column advanced to Balshaya Troitskaya Street, taking over the roadway. Soon, prisoner transporters and buses with tinted windows drove up to the convoy. Arrests began, some were dragged along the ground. The deputy head of the Internal Affairs Directorate of the Hrodna Regional Executive Committee Vitaly Stasyukevich and the commander of the Hrodna OMON Viktar Kravtsevich were at the place of the event.
Among the detainees was a woman in her 30th week of pregnancy. She shouted that she was pregnant, but was dragged into a police van. Soon she was released. A well-known Hrodna historian, Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor Ales Smolenchuk was also arrested.
One man felt unwell during the arrest, he was left on the ground near the prisoner transporters. According to the man, he had a hypertensive crisis. The ambulance picked him up.
8:49 am Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya commented on the March of Justice held yesterday in Belarus, pointing out that the protests in Belarus remain peaceful.
9:06 am On the morning of 21 September, a miner of the 4th Mining Administration refused to rise to the surface after the night shift. Belaruskali Strike Committee writes about this in their Telegram channel.
The striker is known to be called Aleh. He passed the note to the surface, saying that he has joined the strike and refuses to rise to the surface until the demands of the strike committee are fulfilled.
The Telegram channel published the striker’s open letter to Belaruskali General Director Ivan Golovaty, as well as to the company’s employees.
The miner’s demands are:
- Belaruskali General Director Ivan Golovaty’s resignation;
- Release of all arrested Belaruskali strikers;
- No more pressure on strike committee members and their families;
- Stop dismissing the striking Belaruskali workers;
- Stop the lawlessness of the security forces, stop intimidating, arresting and beating peaceful Belarusians.
9:13 am Queues of more than 600 trucks have accumulated on Belarusian borders with several neighboring countries. This was reported by “Sputnik Belarus” with reference to the information from the State Border Committee.
On the morning of 21 September, Monday, problems with leaving Belarus occur at a number of checkpoints on Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish and Ukrainian borders.
On 17 September, Alexander Lukashenko said that because of the war threat he was forced to “mobilise half of the army”, block the western state border and put the border of “brotherly” Ukraine under increased control. According to him, Minsk does not know what Poland and Lithuania “will do next”. “We see that they have very few techniques left in their arsenal before starting the hot war,” Lukashenko said.
9:46 am Telegram channel Nexta informs that the striker refusing to leave the mine is called Aleh Kudyolka.
10:15 am Telegram channel Nexta: Belarusians of Los Angeles are holding a solidarity event.
10:58 am During today’s EU Council of Foreign Ministers meeting, Belarus is going to be an important topic on the agenda. This was stated by the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Josep Borrell as he was speaking with journalists on 21 September before the start of the Council meeting. The conversation was published on the website of the EU Council.
“I feel sorry that the situation deteriorates further, and repressions against peaceful protesters continue,” he said. “Today we will discuss how to support the Belarusian people and how to reconsider our relations with the Belarusian government in a situation where we do not recognize Lukashenka as the legitimate president of Belarus.”
11:24 am Russia will send about 1,000 soldiers to Belarus for the second stage of the Slavic Brotherhood bilateral exercise, the Belarusian Defense Ministry announced on Monday.
“Against the background of the escalating military-political situation around the Republic of Belarus, the President made a decision to hold the second stage of the joint Belarusian-Russian exercise Slavic Brotherhood 2020,” the Defense Ministry said. “The practical training will include, in total, about 6,000 soldiers and over 500 units of military equipment. This includes about 1,000 personnel from the Russian Federation Armed Forces and up to 100 units of military equipment,” the Defense Ministry said.
11:50 am The defense lawyer, the Coordination Council Presidium member Maksim Znak, who went on a hunger strike in the pre-trial detention center, submitted a complaint against his detention to the Minsk City Court, one of his lawyers Yevhen Pylchenko told BelaPAN.
This afternoon the defenders are planning to visit Maksim Znak in the Detention Center No 1. “We have no information about his health with regard to the hunger strike. We plan to find out today,” said Pylchenko.
In his Telegram channel, lawyer Dmitry Laevsky said that Znak’s legal defence has been strengthened. Now, instead of two, he is defended by four lawyers. In addition to Laevsky, these are Evgeny Pylchenko, Sergei Zikratsky and Nadezhda Znak.
On the morning of 18 September, Znak was charged under Part 3 of Art. 361 of the Criminal Code (calls for actions aimed at causing harm to the national security of the Republic of Belarus). In protest, he went on a hunger strike.
“None of the lawyers willing to vouch for Max was heard as a surety. The court did not even respect the chairman of the Minsk regional collegium of advocates, actually prejudging the outcome of the session. I am under a non-disclosure agreement, and unfortunately I cannot say how we reacted,” Laevsky wrote.
According to him, Znak “is being persecuted for expressing his opinions, he has been arrested illegally, he has been unlawfully charged. He was recognized as a political prisoner and a prisoner of conscience.”
12:00 pm Belaruskali Strike Committee informs that striking miner Aleh Kudyolka was brought to the surface and taken to a psychiatric institution by unknown people. Those who came to support the striking miner are being arrested; overall, about 20 people were arrested.
12:00 pm Belarusian KGB has extended the term for the investigation of a criminal case against Viktar Babaryka.
12:05 pm An employee of the Minsk Electrotechnical Plant was found to have died by suicide at his workplace on Saturday. Whether this was due to personal circumstances or the situation in the country is not known for certain.
12:06 pm Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius: the Belarusian authorities have lost their right to make decisions or sign documents in the name of the people.
12:10 pm “Nasha Niva” might be fined for journalist Natalya Lubnevskaya’s injury. According to the editor-in-chief, Yegor Martinovich, the publication may be fined for the editorial board’s failing to prevent an “accident at work”.
12:20 pm Cyprus will support sanctions against the Belarus government. This was announced by Foreign Minister Nikos Christodulis. Previously, Cyprus was the only EU country that vetoed this decision.
12:34 pm Ksenya Valakhanovich, an assistant to Dmitry Lukashenko (Alexander Lukashenko’s middle son), was led from the presidential sports club by Dmitry. Valakhanovich is known to have actively criticized the violence of security forces against peaceful protesters on her personal Facebook page. Her 66-year-old father was brutally arrested during one of the protests.
12:40 pm Lukashenko replaced rectors at three medical universities and the Academy of Public Administration where protests had been held. A new director was also appointed at one of the largest enterprises in the country – Zhodzina “Belaz”. Some of the company’s employees joined the strikes in mid-August.
1:15 pm Miner Aleh Kudyolka was released from hospital and has returned home. Shortly he must report to a local police department.
1:39 pm The Interior Ministry press secretary Volha Chamadanava said that the Ministry will definitely respond to the publishing of police officers’ personal data in the public domain. “How? – you will see,” she concluded her statement.
1:45 pm Students of the Belarusian State Economic University held a peaceful protest. They marched around the main building of their university. Another peaceful event was held by students of the Minsk State Linguistic University.
2:00 pm In Belarus, access was restricted to three more websites – the charitable foundation “Belarus of the Future”, Dapamazhy.by and the BYSol solidarity foundation.
2:05 pm “The multi-vector foreign policy no longer corresponds to the tasks of the development of Belarus. The main priority now is deepening political, economic and military relations with Russia within the framework of the ‘Union State’,” stated MP Andrei Savinykh.
2:25 pm 22 miners, arrested for supporting the miner Aleh Kudyolka, were taken to Salihorsk police department. Police are now identifying them.
2:30 pm During the meeting with the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya asked the international community not to recognise Lukashenko as Belarus’ legitimate leader, since the people’s votes at the election were stolen. Sassoli expressed the opinion that the transfer of power is the only peaceful way to resolve the political crisis in Belarus.
2:38 pm People with posters supporting the Coordination Council member Maria Kalesnikava are gathering at the Minsk City Court. Today the appellate court will consider her lawyers’ appeal concerning Maria’s detention. Diplomats of EU countries also came to court to support Kalesnikava’s family.
2:43 pm According to Belsat, a foreign citizen, Joshua Michael Schiffelbaum, was arrested today in Minsk (his citizenship was not specified). He is currently held at the temporary detention center on Akrescina Street.
2:46 pm Human rights activist Natalya Mankovskaya was sentenced to 9 days of arrest for participating in the Women’s March on Saturday. The administrative court hearings for participating in protests continue like a factory assembly line.
2:53 pm News outlet “Mediazona Belarus” published CCTV footage of Genady Shutov’s (protester from Brest) murder. The video completely refutes the Interior Ministry’s version that Shutov and his friend allegedly attacked police officers with metal pipes, and that the police used guns in self-defense.
3:00 pm Maksim Znak’s defense has appealed the charge of incitement to actions aimed at causing harm to the national security of Belarus to the Prosecutor General’s Office. The Coordination Council lawyer was charged on 18 September.
“The indictment does not include specific statements that the investigator considers “incitement”. This hinders the realization of the right to defense: if there are no specific statements, what are we to refute in court? On the other hand, if they are not in the text, it means that the investigation failed to uncover such statements, and there were no criminal actions involved,” the defense argues.
To recap, Znak has been on a hunger strike since the indictment to express disagreement with the trumped-up charges.
3:10 pm At Minsk City Court, Illia Salei’s parents are talking to European diplomatic officials. Today, the court will hear the defense’s appeal against his remand in custody. Mr. Salei, lawyer for Viktar Babaryka’s campaign, was charged with incitement to actions aimed at causing harm to the national security of Belarus on 18 September.
3:15 pm Musician Aleksandr Pomidorov, who was detained after playing a low-key show for a group of neighbors, was sentenced to 8 days in jail today.
3:40 pm Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and members of the Presidium of the Coordination Council Volha Kavalkova and Pavel Latushka spoke at a meeting of the European Parliament’s Committee on International Affairs in Brussels. Ms. Tsikhanouskaya emphasized the fact that the protesters represent the majority of the Belarusian society and urged the EU not to recognize Alexander Lukashenko’s legitimacy after the rigged presidential elections. She called for new elections under international supervision.
Ms. Tsikhanouskaya also proposed a list of Belarusian officials who may be targeted with sanctions under the Magnitsky Act.
Volha Kavalkova called for adopting an assistance package for Belarus that would be managed by the civil society and noted that Lukashenko “drew Belarus into a military alliance with Russia”, at the same time intimidating the Russian government with the potential hostile plans of the West.
Pavel Latushka spoke about the atrocities and repressions committed by the Belarusian authorities, urged the EU to show solidarity with the victims, and also called for sanctions against Belarusian officials guilty of violating the law.
4:00 pm Brief results of the European Parliament session:
- The head of European diplomacy said that the EU does not intend to interfere in the internal affairs of Belarus, but does not recognize Lukashenko’s legitimacy.
- The EU did not approve targeted sanctions against Belarus because there was no unanimous decision.
- EU Foreign Ministers supported the call for new elections in Belarus under the guidance of the OSCE.
4:20 pm Pavel Slyunkin, First Secretary of the European Department of the Foreign Ministry, announced his resignation on his Facebook page.
4:45 pm Belarusian State University is trying to fire professor Svetana Volchek, the coordinator of the strike committee. University management insists that the reason is labor misconduct rather than political conflict.
4:50 pm Ambassadors of a number of European countries have taken a photo with Illia Salei’s mother and Maria Kalesnikava’s father while wearing badges that say “Freedom to political prisoners”. The court has not issued a ruling on the appeal against Mr. Salei’s remand in custody.
5:00 pm The European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO) explains why service providers in Belarus are forced to deprive their subscribers of mobile Internet.
“In Belarus, A1 cannot provide communication services without access to facilities monopolized by the state. Domestic and international calls as well as the Internet are fully controlled by government agencies”, said the representatives of A1 Telekom Austria Group.
5:20 pm In Salihorsk, all detainees except Anatoly Bokun were released today. No police reports were filed, but the officers warned those who were filmed that administrative cases could be initiated against them at any time.
5:30 pm Minsk City Court has ruled to keep Maria Kalesnikava, member of the Presidium of the Coordination Council, in custody. The judge did not satisfy the appeal of the defense to change the measure of restraint.
Ms. Kalesnikava took part in the meeting via Skype from the Zhodzina detention center. The audience applauded when they saw her on the screen. In response, the judge demanded that everyone present leave the room.
5:35 pm NEXTA, a popular opposition Telegram channel, has published a new list with the personal information of more than 70 riot police officers from Vitsebsk. According to the authors, the officers “behaved very badly and injured a lot of people during the peaceful protests.”
This time, the list included their home addresses and phone numbers as well as names, dates of birth and rank.
5:58 pm The court has ruled that Illia Salei will also remain in custody.
6:24 pm The coordinator of the Viasna human rights center, Marfa Rabkova, has been recognized as a political prisoner. She was detained on 17 September in Minsk and taken to the Investigative Committee as a suspect in a criminal case of mass riots. On 19 September she was transferred to detention center No. 1.
6:41 pm ❗️ BelTA informs that the BelNPP launch date has been postponed again. The commissioning of the first power unit is now scheduled for the first quarter 2021, the second power unit is planned to be commissioned in 2022, as stated by the Minister of Energy of Belarus, Viktor Karankevich.
7:06 pm Maxim Nesterkov, the host of online matches and freelance writer of Tribuna.сom, has been sentenced to 15 days of detention. The journalist was detained during a march in Minsk on 19 September.
7:14 pm Several people gathered near the Salihorsk police station in support of Anatoly Bokun, the only one of the 22 detainees who was not released.
7:28 pm Pavel Latushka offered to speak at a meeting of the international committee of the State Duma of the Russian Federation; however, the first deputy chairman of the State Duma committee for CIS affairs, Vodolatsky, told RIA Novosti that the deputies had nothing to talk about with Latushka.
7:32 pm Two more diplomats have been dismissed by the Foreign Ministry – Pavel Korotkevich, Second Secretary of the Department for Foreign Economic Activity, and Andrei Trusov, Second Secretary of the Leading Directorate for Asia and Africa. Andrei Trusov was the only specialist in the ministry who spoke Indonesian.
Earlier, Pavel Latushka, ex-Minister of Culture and Member of the Presidium of the Coordination Council, wrote in his Telegram channel that in the near future more than 30 employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would lose their posts due to their public disagreement with the policy of terror pursued by Lukashenko.
7:36 pm A teacher of the Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics, Kirill Surkov, downgraded exam results of students who took part in protests, from distinction to merit.
7:54 pm A women’s protest rally was held in Homel, which coincided with 40 days since Aliaksandr Vikhor’s death. There were no arrests.
8:07 pm An interesting flashmob is taking place in the Belarusian National Technical University – students glue small leaflets with inspirational messages on doors and walls. “Now there is more truth within the walls of our university!” they say.
8:32 pm Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs expressed his opinion that it should not be allowed for an EU country to keep the entire community hostage by blocking a decision on sanctions against Belarusian officials. He made this statement at a meeting of the EU Council in Brussels, urging the community not to hesitate in adopting sanctions.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius wrote on his Twitter: “Today’s failure to agree on sanctions in support of Belarusians, suffering & fighting for democracy, undermine credibility of democratic values they are fighting for. Some colleagues should not link things that must not be linked. 🇱🇹 will continue to insist on substantial actions.”
9:12 pm Medical University teachers express their support for students and protest against violence in their recorded video address.
9:16 pm According to TASS, the Interior Ministry press office announced that no personal data of security forces had been leaked in the Ministry.
Yesterday, TASS reported that the Ministry of Internal Affairs announced that they have the technology to identify those responsible for leaking data on security forces.
Earlier today, Nexta Live channel published the personal data of 70 more security officials.