Opposition Demonstrators Beaten up by Riot Police in Minsk
On Sunday the police has violently stopped a peaceful demonstration by the youth organization Malady Front dedicated to St. Valentine’s Day. The organization wanted to present the award Liubliu Bielaruś (“I love Belarus”) to people who had contributed to national revival and important social initiatives in 2009. After Hotel Crowne Plaza Minsk had unexpectedly cancelled the conference hall rent agreement, Malady Front decided to perform a ceremony near the Minsk city hall. As a result, over 20 people were arrested, some were injured. See photos by RFE/RL Belarusian Edition and Naša Niva
On February, 16 the police has beaten up a demonstration of solidarity of the Belarusian democratic opposition with the Union of Poles of Belarus. 28 people have been arrested including the well-known photographer Julija Daraškievič. See reports by RFE/RL, RFE/RL Belarusian Edition and Naša Niva.
Belarusian analysts relate the increased violence of the police’s actions with the upcoming local elections and the presidential electoral campaign.
Belarus Police Arrests Polish Activists Unloyal to the Regime
Tensions between Belarus and Poland rise as Belarus police arrested about 40 members of a Polish ethnic group. This is a continuation of increased pressure put against the Union of Poles in Belarus.
The Union is uncontrolled and unrecognized by the Belarusian authorities and competes with a pro-government organization of Poles. The Financial Times today devoted an article to the conflict:
Belarus, a country of about 10m, has a Polish minority of about 400,000, a remnant from pre-war times when western Belarus was a part of Poland. The Union of Poles in Belarus became the country’s largest nongovernment organisation after most opposition groups were driven underground by Mr Lukashenko, prompting the government to form a pro-regime Polish organisation in 2005 which took over the assets of the independent group.
Mr Lukashenko’s government was pushed to warm ties with Europe when his Russian allies tired of propping him up through cheap oil and gas and began to demand world prices for energy. Belarus’s ramshackle economy needed investment and new markets to survive, and Mr Lukashenko released all of his political prisoners in 2008 as a way of improving relations with the west.
Polish President Lech Kaczynski, Prime Minister Donald Tusk and the Foreign Minister all take active part in trying to persuafe the Belarus authorities not to prosecute Polish activists. Polish authorities already banned the Belarusian officials implicated in violation of the rights of Polish minority to enter Poland.