Daily protests and repressions, international reaction, Coordination Council – Belarus Civil Society Digest
For over 40 days, starting from August 9th, Belarusians continue daily peaceful protests. The most massive rallies on Sundays continue to gather hundreds of thousands of people in Minsk, despite the increasing brutality by the police. Lukashenka keeps pushing a rhetoric of Belarus’ destruction by external aggressors. Independent experts agree that Belarus is passing through the most dramatic political crisis in its history, as well as the foreign policy default and human rights catastrophe.
- The daily protests and solidarity actions across the country continue in various forms – hanging white-red-white flags and ribbons, repainting city objects in national colors, art products, neighborhood evening parties, cyber partisans, public appeals by lawyers, university graduates, parents of students, musicians, and football players, quitting the GONGOs, singings flashmobs, dismissal of officials (e.g., head of the state Institute of Sociology), etc. In response, the authorities use new forms of pressure – bills for flag removal and warnings parents against taking children to rallies.
- Strikes. Amid intimidation and dozens of new arrests of strike committee leaders, the state enterprises continue an Italian strike and other “guerrilla”/hidden forms of protests, including anti-records in fulfilling monthly plans at Belaruskali and BelAZ. The Norwegian company Yara, a buyer of Belarusian fertilizers is concerned over the situation with Belarusian workers and visits Soligorsk this week.
- Economy in recession. Currency withdrawal by population accelerates to $30 million per day. However, the currency rate is falling slightly, which is explained by the continued sale of gold and foreign exchange reserves. The total debts of large and medium-sized enterprises amounted to $60 billion – that is more than the size of the Belarusian economy.
- Civil society continues monitoring, financial and other support to victims of repression – e.g., so far, the Probono platform that unites over 500 volunteers and 250 organizations has helped in solving over 2,500 issues. The initiative to help the resigned police officerscontinues. The new campaign Honest University will help students to be heard. To the moment, the BY_help initiative has paid $400 thousand to 650 victims of violence. In total, aid funds to support Belarusians have raised $6.2 million.
- Coordination Council. MEPs welcome the Coordination Council as an “interim representation of the people demanding democratic change”. Two out of seven leaders of the Coordination Council remain at large in the country – Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich and the representative of the strike committees Sergei Dylevsky, released after 25 days of arrest. Others are arrested in criminal cases or forcibly taken abroad. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in her address to the UN Human Rights Council reiterates the readiness for a dialogue with the authorities.
- Repressions. The authorities continue mass detentions to bring down a wave of protests – over 770 people were detained during the last Sunday protests. It became known that the formal reason why Belarusian Catholic Church Head was banned to return to Belarus: his passport was declared invalid. TUT.BY releases a document with the data of over 1,100 people who sought medical treatment during street events. 70 political prisoners remain in jail, including 12 new political prisoners this week. The opposition compiles “Taraikovsky’s List” (by the name of the first protester killed) with those who torture and beat people.
- Crackdown on independent media. Eight journalists are in jail for administrative cases. Two photojournalists were sentenced to 11 days of arrest each, independent media react with blank front pages.
- International reaction. The EP resolution indicates the non-recognition of Lukashenka as president of Belarus when his term expires in November. OSCE launches the Moscow Mechanism to examine human rights violations in Belarus. IIHF will review hosting the 2021 Ice Hockey World Championship in Minsk. The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine does not recognize the Belarusian election. Poland wants the EU to pledge 1 billion euros to stabilize Belarus. Putin promises a $1.5bn loan to Belarus. Lukashenka threatens to close the borderswith Poland and Lithuania, but so far it remains rhetoric.
- COVID-19. This week the number of new infections exceeded 200 daily cases. Over 75,000 Belarusians positively tested for and 773 died due to COVID-19. Lukashenka got the Ig Nobel Prize for “using the COVID-19 to teach the world that politicians can have a more immediate effect on life and death than scientists and doctors can”.
Belarus Digest prepared this overview on the basis of materials provided by Pact. This digest attempts to give a richer picture of the recent political and civil society events in Belarus. It often goes beyond the hot stories already available in English-language media.