26 pensioners were arrested for reading books in Belarusian on the train; the Honorary Consul of Belarus in Italy resigned on principle; over 40 thousand signed a petition urging Yara to stop cooperation with Belaruskali
27 February 2021 | Voice of Belarus
Pensioners were rounded up and arrested for reading books in Belarusian, the authorities considered the books to be “extremist literature”
Last Friday, the police cracked down on the pensioners who traveled to Maladzechna by train. The arrests of the seniors took place at multiple railway stations and were carried out by people in plain clothes. All the detained women were reading books written by Belarusian writers. In this way, they organized the event to promote Belarusian language.
According to the available information, the police detained 26 people. The age of the detainees ranges between 60 and 75 years.
All the women were released after spending a night at the Akrestsina detention center. Their trials are scheduled for Monday, 1 March. The women reported that 14 people were forced to stay in a cell designed for 6 prisoners only. They also complained that they were not given any mattresses to sleep on.
According to the seniors, police officers recorded a video of them. The policemen also made it clear that there was a mole among the women.
75-year-old Natallia was among the detainees. She was subjected to the trial immediately. She was released and received the fine of 25 base units (approximately 280 USD) under Article 23.34 of the Administrative Offences Code. During the trial, the woman testified that she neither took that train nor participated in the action. She said that she was coming back from the countryside house. After searching her purse the officers found bags with vegetable seeds and books in Belarusian. One of the police officers told her that books by Belarusian writers were considered extremist literature.
Nevertheless, all the books found in the pensioner’s purse are included in the official Belarusian literature curriculum at schools, while Belarusian remains the official language in Belarus. The detentions of seniors are yet another example of absurdity and lawlessness happening in Belarus these days.
The Honorary Consul of Belarus in Italy resigned
Italian newspaper Gazzetta di Reggio confirmed that Antonio Sottile, the Honorary Consul of Belarus in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, has resigned due to continuous repressions against the Belarusian people.
“My choice is the choice of conscience. I firmly believe in the values that my parents instilled in me. Those are the values of democracy, freedom, respect for human rights, and non-violence. I want to pass on these values to my three children. More than 27 thousand people were arrested and subjected to intimidation, persecution, and torture in Belarus. Dozens of people went missing, five died defending their rights.”
According to Antonio Sottile, his decision was also influenced by the OSCE confirmation that “the elections on 9 August did not meet international standards and were neither free nor fair. The EU does not recognize the results of these elections. The European Parliament did not recognize Lukashenko as the president and calls for new elections under international guidance”.
Honorary consuls are people who help establish economic and cultural ties between countries, but at the same time, they are not civil servants and are not on a payroll. Sottile has been the Honorary Consul of Belarus in the region since November 2011. He helped to organize the rehabilitation initiatives for Belarusian children who suffered from the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster. He also contributed to the development of bilateral partnerships between Belarusian and Italian businesses.
Andrei Sannikov shared on Facebook the appeal to other honorary consuls of Belarus in various countries to follow the example of Mr. Sottile. Andrei Sannikov was one of Lukashenko’s opponents in the 2010 presidential elections. After the elections, he and his family were persecuted and forced to leave the county.
More than 40 thousand people signed an appeal to the Norwegian company Yara
More than 40 thousand people signed a petition urging Norwegian company Yara to end its cooperation with Belaruskali.
The authors of the petition believe that the Belarusian potash fertilizers producer is under full control of Lukashenko’s regime.
The petition states that Belaruskali is one of the crucial sources that help Lukashenko subsidize OMON and KGB – the organizations responsible for the imprisonment, rape, torture, and persecution of tens of thousands of people.
In September, a delegation from Yara visited the plant and condemned the violation of human and labor rights in Belarus. The Norwegians called the situation in Belarus unacceptable.
At the same time, the contracts were not terminated, while the official management of Belaruskali assured Yara that workers’ rights were respected.
The petition says that Yara’s appeal to the Belaruskali management to stop the violation of workers’ rights and persecution of strikers will not produce any results. It points out that despite the official statement from the management of the Belarusian company, the repressions continue.
On Monday, 1 March, the Belarusian diaspora will hold an online meeting with Yara’s management team.
Meanwhile, the pickets against Yara and Belaruskali business partnership and signing a contract between these entities took place across several countries.
Meanwhile, in Belarus, people continue to be falsely accused and imprisoned
Valiantsina Miadzvedz is a 45-year-old resident of Biaroza, who was sentenced to two years of probation because of her post in a Telegram channel. She referred to the head of the juvenile affairs inspectorate, Dzmitry Lishko as “a rotten and sleazy type”, comparing him to a Nazi Hilfspolizei member. On 7 December 2020, a special linguistic examination ruled that Miadzvedz used a non-normative form of speech aimed to offend the police officer, which amounts to a public insult to a government official exercising their duties.
Two residents of Minsk, Dzianis Zayancheuski and Maksim Tatsianka, were sentenced to three years of an open prison. The men set up stuffed muppets on a white-red-white flag background. They attached to the muppets photos of the Chairman of the Council of the Republic Natallia Kachanava, Interior Minister Ivan Kubrakou, and a police officer in a balaclava. The court decided that both expressed contempt for society, deliberately and with particular cynicism humiliating the honor and dignity of the officials.
Vitsebsk district court sentenced Yuliya Kashaverava to 1.5 years of imprisonment in a penal colony for kicking a police minibus 3 times. The state prosecutor asked for six years of prison for the woman.
At the trial, Yuliya said that she wanted to provide medical assistance to a man who was detained by the riot police – he was running away from the security forces and fell to the ground. When the security forces sprayed tear gas, the police car was parked nearby, so Yuliya, according to her own statement, could not resist the anger and hit the back door of the security officials’ car 3 times. But she assured that she did not hit the right-side doors and did not tear off the mask and cap from the police officer.
Yuliya Kashaverava worked as a nurse in the Airborne Brigade number 103. She was fired on 9 October, after being detained at a rally and fined under Article 23.34 of the Administrative Offences Code. In 2020, before her arrest, Yuliya lost her mother.
For more information on the events of 27 February 2021, please visit Infocenter Free Belarus 2020: