Date: 14 September 2020

Detention of journalists, Vatican envoy in Minsk | Meeting of the law enforcement, statement of the Coordination Council

The independent Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) reported that on September 11 journalists were arrested in Vitebsk, Babruysk and Gomel. On the same day a court in Minsk sentenced Dzmitry Siemczanka – a former journalist of ONT state television, to 15 days’ imprisonment “for participation in an illegal action.” On Friday, the court in Minsk declared the August strike in the state potassium corporation Belaruskalij illegal. It is one of the largest companies in Belarus. In 2019 its share in the world production of potassium chloride fertilizers was about 20 percent. On September 11, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher – the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, began his visit to Belarus. In Minsk he met with Vladimir Makei – Belarusian Minister of Foreign Affairs. In recent weeks, the Lukashenko’s regime has been exerting pressure on the Catholic Church in Belarus whilst on August 31 its Head – Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, was not allowed to enter the country. According to unofficial information, Cyprus is blocking EU sanctions against Belarus, demanding a stronger EU position towards Turkey regarding Ankara’s offshore gas drilling in the eastern Mediterranean. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed on Friday that Alexander Lukashenko’s visit to Moscow will take place on September 14. Importantly, the visit is supposed to be a working one and no bilateral documents are planned to be signed. In recent days Moscow has hosted the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense of Belarus whilst Minsk hosted Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. On the day of the meeting between Putin and Lukashenko, Belarus-Russia military exercises will commence in the Brest Region in the west of Belarus.

More than 40 people were detained by the militia during Saturday’s protests in which women took part. The officers as well as men in balaclavas and unmarked suits acted violently, some women were badly beaten. Several journalists were also detained. Hundreds of women appeared in the afternoon of September 12 at several locations in Minsk. Independent media estimated the total number of participants in the march at 10,000. According to the official data of the Ministry of the Internal Affairs, on Friday, September 11, 32 people were detained throughout the country for violating the regulations on gatherings. Eighteen of them are to appear before the administrative court – they are facing a fine or arrest for up to 15 days. Meanwhile, Maria Kolesnikova’s defenders appealed against the decision to arrest her. Kolesnikova, a member of the opposition’s Presidium of the Coordination Council, was detained on September 7, after which the KGB tried to take her to Ukraine by force – unsuccessfully. Later on, she was transferred to the detention center in Minsk, but on Saturday her lawyer informed that the oppositionist was transferred to the detention center in Zhodzina, about 55 km from the capital. On Saturday the Coordination Council informed that it intends to continue its activity. The Council’s decisions, if cannot be made by the members of the Presidium, will be reached by the whole Council by a simple majority of votes. Six out of seven members of the Presidium are under arrest or in forced emigration. Two days before the start of the Slavic Brotherhood military exercise with the participation of Russian troops, the Minister of Defense said that “The activity of NATO forces near the Belarusian borders continues to worry Minsk, an adequate response to the situation on the border will continue.” Viktor Khrenin announced the end of the exercises “in the Grodno tactical direction.” In Minsk, the Minister of Defense, along with other heads of law enforcement, took part in a meeting with Lukashenko.

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TAGS: migration crisis, NATO, Belarus, Russia


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