Politics & Civil Society Digest: 9-24 June 2011

BPF’s eviction

Belarus Digest starts to publish regular summaries of the most notable political and civil society news in Belarus. The new digests will attempt to give a richer picture of the recent events in Belarus, and will often go beyond the hot stories already available in other English-language media.

Over the last  weeks the news about mass protests and subsequent repressions dominated the headlines. Other notable events include the ongoing eviction of one the largest Belarusian opposition party from its headquarters (picture on the left) and trials against journalists and bloggers. The most interesting civil society news include creation of the online civil society archive and a public procurement seminar conducted with the Minsitry of Labour.

The protests at the border. On June 12th at a checkpoint "Bruzgi" on the Belarusian-Polish border a protest against the restrictions of motor fuel’s removal from the country was held. 200-300 people took part in the rally. Special Forces from Hrodna were called to place of protest, they used tear gas. According to police, 22 people were detained. 15 of them were sentenced to fines of Br1.05 million (approx. $210) each. Video from the protest action here. On June 13 a similar protest took place at the border checkpoint "Warsaw Bridge" in Brest, which was attended by more than 50 people.

“Revolution through a social network”. On June 15 and 22 the actions "Revolution through a social network"  continued. The idea is to gather democratically oriented ppl weekly at a certain time (Wednesday, 7 pm) on the main square of the cities, without flags and other symbols. The action is called as "network revolution" (the idea of action appeared in the social network Vkontakte), "silent revolution" (the protesters do not submit any claims), "revolution of applause" (during the actions participants respond only with applause).

On June 15 in Minsk one-two thousand ppl came to the action. Hundreds of people took the central squares in all regional centers and more than 10 district cities all over Belarus. Oktyabrskaya Square in Minsk was blocked with turnstiles and closed for the people. Photos and video here. Police detained more than 240 ppl, all were released without being drawn up. In Gomel, a “revolutionary” was fined Br770 000 (approx. $150). The amount of fine was collected by the Gomel residents. 

On June 22 the action was held in Minsk (up to four thousand participants), all regional centers and more than 40 district cities. Almost all the central squares of major cities were occupied by official events, fenced with turnstiles and limited to access. Photos and video here. According to Viasna, during a protest around 460 people have been detained, including 19 journalists. The next day, 22 people were fined from Br70 thousand to Br1.05 million (from $14 to $200 at the official exchange rate). All were charged under the administrative Article 17.1 “petty hooliganism”. 

Procurator against a blogger. General Prosecutor's Office opened a criminal investigation on the case of the national flag’s abuse in the blog Lipkovich.livejournal.com.  It is assumed that the page belongs to the well-known blogger Evgeny Lipkovich. Earlier Lipkovich Blog was blocked for public authorities for "spreading information of disruptive nature".

The trial on Poczobut is held in a closed format. The trial on the criminal case against the journalist of Gazeta Wyborcza Andrey Poczobut is held in Grodno behind closed doors. Poczobut is charged under two articles of the Criminal Code: 368 ("insulting the President") and 367 (slander against the president"). Participation in the trial is not allowed even to his family and foreign diplomats.

BPF’s eviction is a final decision. On June 21 the College of Minsk Economic Court upheld the decision of the court regarding eviction of the Belarusian Popular Front, one of the largest opposition parties. The decision came into effect from the date of publication. BPF rented its office in the center of Minsk for 20 years. Now BPF activists refuse to release the premises and organized around the clock in the office.

New public opinion poll. According to a recent survey of the Independent Institute for Sociological and Political Studies (May 2011), 33% of the adult population in Belarus received information from the Internet, while only 2.2% - from social networks.

Prokopovich no longer heads the National Bank. On June 20 Prokopovich’s former deputy head Yuri Alymov was appointed the Acting Chairman of the National Bank. "Piotr Petrovich will not return to the National Bank. I want him to live,"- Lukashenka said.

Blackmail against the Hungarian Ambassador. On June 8 a video clip was posted on Youtube, compromising the Hungarian Ambassador in Minsk Ferenc Kontra. According to Hungarian media, the fabrication of blackmail was done by the Belarusian KGB, who avenges the Hungarian diplomacy for its consistent criticism of the Belarusian regime. 

State-certified consultants on social contracting. From June 14 a training course for the second group of consultants on the specialty "State social contracting in social services" has started. This is a long-term training course, implemented by the efforts of the National Institute for Advanced Studies and Retraining of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Minsk International Education Center and NGO "ACT". At the end of May 2011 the first 15 people became state-certified consultants.

Belarusian civil society’s web archive. On June 6 in Minsk, a public Web archive "Vytoki" (Origins) was presented. For the first time a unique archive on the history of the development of Belarusian civil society and the liberation movement during the last half century was created. This is a joint initiative of Human Rights Center "Viasna", Dyaryush, the NGO Assembly and Center Supolnasc’.

This digest was prepared by Belarus Digest the basis of materials provided by Pact.

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