News / Europe

Belarus Police Break Up Peaceful Protest

Belarusian policemen detain protesters during the 'Revolution via social network' protest in Minsk, June 22, 2011
Belarusian policemen detain protesters during the 'Revolution via social network' protest in Minsk, June 22, 2011
James Brooke

Six months after protests against fraudulent elections led to a brutal crackdown against Belarus' political opposition, Belarusians are coming out to protest again - this time against the nation’s economic collapse.  

This is a protest Belarus-style.  The loudest voices are those of the police, telling people to disperse.

Protesters do not chant slogans.  They do not carry signs.  They do not wear political T-shirts or buttons.  They just walk on the sidewalks, mingle and chat on a summer evening.

But that apparently was too much for the government of Belarus - on edge after a 50-percent devaluation of the Belarusian ruble in recent weeks.

To break up what is now a weekly protest, police in Minsk detained scores of people Wednesday night, including Oleg Gruzdilovich, a correspondent for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

The arrests came after President Alexander Lukashenko, the long-running dictator of Belarus, threatened to fire his interior minister if another protest took place against his government.  In a rambling, five-hour press conference, the president denounced social networks and threatened to shut down the Internet.

Vyesna, a human rights group, said that hundreds of Facebook and Twitter users were interrogated in recent days by agents of the secret police, still called the KGB in Belarus.

Despite the crackdown, many of the thousands of young people mingling in downtown Minsk on Wednesday said they were alerted by social networks and a Youtube protest film that has gone viral.

Dmitry, a 22-year-old history student, said that invitations to the protest were all over the Internet this week.

“We want a change,” he said. “We want to live in a free country.”

Like many protesters, Dmitry declined to give his last name.  He said a classmate had been arrested during protests over the presidential elections last December.  Her parents were fired from their jobs.  After she was released from jail, she went to study in Poland.

Dmitry said that after the devaluation, his mother’s monthly salary at a childcare center has fallen to $190.  He said he would like to emigrate, maybe joining his sister and grandmother in New Jersey in the United States.

To keep protest numbers down, the city’s subway did not stop at downtown stations this evening.  Police closed road and pedestrian access to the square.

Despite these moves, reporters said that the turnout was twice as large as at the protest one week earlier.

As policemen herded protesters away from a central meeting point, passing car drivers started to blow their horns.

Dmitry Ilyushin, who has a small business, said he came to make his little contribution.

Anything more, he said, and he would be arrested.

He did not know that as he spoke, people several blocks away were being arrested for mingling.

Dmitry, a 40-year-old government worker came from work in coat and tie.  For fear of losing his job, he refused to give his name.

Asked why he was joining the protest, he replied with his own question.

He asked, “Did you see the prices in the stores?”

As bankrupt as Greece, Belarus has enough foreign currency to pay for one, maybe two months of imports.

It looks like tougher economic times are ahead for Belarus.

You May Like

Hostage Crisis Could Divide Japan Over Plans to Boost Military

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday the government is working closely with the Jordanian government to secure the release of remaining Japanese hostage Kenji Goto More

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Country's youngest ever PM Alexis Tsipras, 40, sworn in Monday and says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts More

Multimedia National Geographic Photo Camps Empower Youth

Annual mentoring program's mission is to give young people a voice to tell their own stories through photography More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid