Belarusian prisoner of conscience to be freed in October
A representative of Amnesty International met with prisoner of conscience, Maxim Dashuk, in September 2010. Maxim described how difficult it’s been to live under ‘restricted freedom’ following his sentence in May 2008, at the age of 17.
On 15 June 2008 Maxim Dashuk was sentenced to one year and three months of further “restricted freedom” by the Maskouski district court in Minsk. He was convicted for violating the terms of earlier sentences imposed for their participation in the January 2008 anti-governmental protest and Amnesty International considers them to be prisoners of conscience. The young man had been among 11 people who were given sentences of up to two years of “restricted freedom” for “taking part in or organizing actions that gravely disturb public order”.
Maxim has been sentenced to a total of two years and five months of ‘restricted freedom’. He is now 19 years old and the last two and a half years have taken their toll on him. He spoke with Amnesty International about the pressure he has lived under since his initial sentence. He is required to work for eight hours a day, which he does, running his own business assembling furniture. He has two hours a day to carry out his daily chores and, apart from that, he is required to be at home.
At an age when his friends enjoy the usual teenage pastimes, Maxim has not been able to go to bars, restaurants, concerts or festivals, to enjoy sport or travel outside of Minsk since May 2008 and has suffered from a lot of fear as a result of the restrictions placed on him. Police officers and inspectors are able to make unannounced visits to his home to check he is there and if he isn’t, even due to unavoidable reasons, such as bad traffic, it can be counted as a violation of the conditions of his sentence. Three such violations may result in an extension of his sentence, which is exactly what happened to him in June 2009 and his original sentence was extended by another 15 months.
Maxim will have served his full sentence on 21 October 2010. He told Amnesty International that he will be very happy on that day and that he wants to travel abroad and see the sea. Maxim also said that solidarity is a very important source of support and that he would welcome cards from members to celebrate his freedom.
Luzhkov and Lukashenka – Political Twins and Business Partners
Belarus President Lukashenka has one more reason to be angry. His friend and business partner Yuri Luzhkov is no longer the Mayor of Moscow.
Luzhkov and Lukashenka have many things in common. Lukashenka has been a president for 16 years and Luzhkov occupied the position of Moscow mayor more than 18 years. Their political views are also similar – both are anti-Western populists praising the good old Soviet days and and trying to stay in power at all costs.
But perhaps what makes Lukashenka particularly angry about Luzhkov’s dismissal is that they have vast common business interests. Lukashenka privatized Belarus while Luzhkov helped his wife to become one of the richest women on the planet.
Moscow is one of Belarus’s biggest investors. Companies controlled by Luzhkov’s family undertake massive real estate development projects in Minsk, and involved in other businesses – from building and running restaurants in Minsk to selling plastic chairs for Belarusian stadiums. Now that Luzhkov is no longer occupying one of the most powerful positions in Russia, the future of those business projects is far from certain.
Kremlin is very unhappy both with Luzhkov and Lukashenka. In God Father-IV, a new sequel in a series of anti-Lukashenka movies produced by Moscow, Luzhkov in placed the same line of “friends of Lukashenka” as Mikheil Saakashvili and Kurmanbek Bakiyev. The movie hints that Lukashenka is likely to follow the fate of Luzhkov in the nearest future.
Time will show whether this prediction is right. But it is already clear that the Moscow Mayor’s dismissal was a serious blow to Lukashenka’s lobby in Russia and a number of Luzhkov’s business projects in Belarus.