BELARUSALERT – DAY 18

Date: 27 August 2020

Weakening protests, more arrests, hard currency deficit

SOURCE: МАКСИМ ШИКУНЕЦ (CC BY-SA 4.0)

On Wednesday, August 26, the police detained at least 19 people in Minsk. The protesters were also detained in other cities of Belarus. The detainees are charged with participation in an illegal assembly, after which the court immediately passes a prison sentence, usually for a duration of 10 days. The most dramatic scenes took place in the evening on the capital’s Independence Square. Special Purpose Mobile Unit (OMON) dispersed a crowd of about 1,000 protesters who had traditionally gathered there. Most people ran away, several dozen people took refuge in a nearby Catholic church. The police blocked them there for several dozen minutes. The next day, August 27, the authorities of the Catholic Church in Belarus strongly protested to the Belarusian authorities over the incident. On Wednesday, August 26, Svetlana Alexievich appeared before the Investigative Committee. The winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize for Literature refused to testify. Alexievich retained her status of a witness in a criminal case, initiated by the authorities, concerning the establishment of the opposition’s Coordination Council. Alexievich is a member of it. The authorities claim that the creation of the Coordination Council is an attempt to “seize power in the country.” Two members of the Presidium of the Council are serving ten-day arrests. The political crisis is deepened by the economic crisis. The national currency – Belarusian ruble, is weakening every day. Since August 9, the exchange rates of euro, US dollar and Russian ruble have already increased by about four percent. This has an impact on the increase in prices of many products in stores since Belarus imports a lot. Therefore, people and companies try to buy foreign currencies. However, there are issues in this matter in banks and exchange offices. Small sums could be bought only if someone else sells the given currency. In order to withdraw a larger amount of dollars or euros from a personal currency account, an application has to be submitted in advance.

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