Belarus Review Daily – September 2, 2020

Belarus Review Daily – September 2, 2020

Your daily insight into Belarus crisis (delivered Monday to Friday)

Dmitri Lovetsky / AP
02.09.2020 iSANS
  1. POLITICAL ACTIVITY AND ECONOMY
  2. INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY
  3. REPRESSIONS CONTINUE

POLITICAL ACTIVITY AND ECONOMY

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya was nominated for Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

On Friday September 4, on the initiative of Estonia and backed by other UN member states, an Arria-formula meeting is held at the UN Security Council to discuss human rights situation in Belarus. During the meeting, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya will provide an overview of the ongoing situation along with the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Anaïs Marin, and representatives of the Belarusian civil society.

Pavel Latushka, a member of the Coordination Council for the settlement of the political crisis, is on a visit to Poland where he will be attending the Krynica Economic Forum (2-10 September). He later plans a visit to Lithuania. Propagandistic media and telegram channels claimed he escaped from Belarus on political grounds.

Yuri Gubarevich (who is a representative of the Coordination Council and the chairman of ‘For Freedom’ movement) submitted a statement to the Investigative Committee on the initiation of a criminal case against Aliaksandr Lukashenka. Gubarevich claims that Lukashenka has orchestrated illegal seizure of state power that resulted in the deaths of civilians.

Protests against rigged elections and police violence continue for 25 consecutive days. On Wednesday, numerous peaceful manifestations were detected in most districts of Minsk. OMON and unidentified plain-clothed people (who supposedly represent Lukashenka’s state security) continue brutal arbitrary arrests of peaceful protesters and journalists. According to the Ministry of Interior of Belarus, 128 people were detained during September 1 protest rallies across the country. 30 detainees are university students.

Members of Orthodox and Catholic Churches gathered in Minsk to pray in support of Catholic Archibishop Kandrusevich, a Belarusian national who was earlier denied his right to return to Belarus after his visit to Poland.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had a meeting with acting head of the Belarusian MFA Vladimir Makei on Wednesday. ‘Around 200 extremists trained in the Volyn area are now operating in Belarus’, according to Lavrov who said so during a joint press briefing with Makei. The head of the Ukrainian MFA Dmytro Kuleba later mocked Lavrov on his Facebook page for Russia’s Foreign Minister’s ‘mental fantasies’.

Vladimir Makei claims that Belarusian MFA (yet loyal to Lukashenka) has prepared what he calls an ‘asymmetric sanctions list’. The list, however, won’t be published.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin plans to visit Minsk on September 3. Some of the possible issues on a table may include the establishment of a full-fledged Russian military base in Belarus, and assignment of the Russian military to border control units on Belarus-EU border.

Acting Defense Minister of Belarus Viktar Khrenin will visit Moscow on September 4.

Belarusian bureaucracy is developing social support measures for a likely case of delays in salary payments. On September 1, Moody’s Investors Service placed all long-term ratings and assessments of major Belarusian banks on review for downgrade. Moody’s experts acknowledged that ‘prolonged political turmoil would be disruptive for economic activity, already damaged by the coronavirus outbreak, and thus cause a more significant than expected deterioration in asset quality in the coming months’.

A head of Jewish community in Homiel, rabbi Joseph Zholudzeu, received an anonymous letter with anti-semitic threats that was stylised to represent the protesters. This is, likely, a provocation of the state security loyal to Lukashenka to discredit the protesters.

The staff of the most prestigious high school of Belarus, the Lyceum of the Belarusian State University, condemned the escalation of violence, and in particular – harsh detentions of peaceful protesters that took place in the lyceum’s territory on Tuesday.

1100 workers of Belarusian Railways signed a petition for Lukashenka’s resignation and new elections.

Belarusian government sends letters claiming Lukashenka is a legitimate head of state. Further, the letter discredits the Coordination Council and calls it ‘anti-constitutional’.

In a newly-published interview, Donald Tusk (the president of the European People’s Party / EPP, Europe’s largest transnational political party) claims that in 2014, Lukashenka suggested to unite Belarus and Ukraine under his presidency.

On Saturday September 5, the representatives of various religious groups will gather at Red Church in Minsk for a joint prayer in memory of all victims of political violence.

Belarusian propagandist Ivan Eismant (the head of National State Television and Radio Company of Belarus and the husband of Lukashenka’s long-lasting press-secretary Natallia Eismant) claimed in his interview to Russia Today that the voters in Hrodna region raised Lithuania’s and Poland’s flags after August 9 elections.

INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY

Belarusians gathered almost US $2 million for the protesters who lost jobs due to their political activity and for workers on a strike. At least 32,500 individuals donated to the cause. Another US $2,9 million was donated for the victims of police violence and torture.

Canada, US, EU and Britain are discussing new sanctions against Lukashenka’s regime.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the Belarusian authorities to end the violence, and said that the US is preparing a package of personal sanctions against those responsible for the repressions.

EU experts have prepared a preliminary list of Belarusians to be targeted by sanctions for violence against protesters and election fraud in Belarus. The list includes at least 17 people. The sanctions will include a ban on entry to the EU countries and the freezing of financial assets in European banks.

On Wednesday, NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s President Attila Mesterhazy (HU) had a phone conversation with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg about the political situation in Belarus. The NATO PA will hold a webinar discussion on the situation in Belarus on 14 September. The Parliament of Belarus was granted Associate membership in the NATO PA in 1992 but its status remains suspended since 1997 following the rise of Aliaksandr Lukashenka.

REPRESSIONS CONTINUE

Minsk office of a Silicone Valley high-tech company, PandaDoc, has been searched by the State Control Committee. A few employees reported searches also took place at the housing of PandaDoc managers. PandaDoc is a resident of Belarus High Tech Park. In early August, the company had raised $ 30 million in the US market Round B extension (led by One Peak Partners). Its investors include Microsoft Venture Fund (М12), Savano Capital Partners, Rembrandt Venture Partners and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. At least one PandaDoc employee, Viktar Kuvshynau (Виктор Кувшинов) was taken away from home by the state security, and didn’t return home.

The founder of PandaDoc, Mikita Mikado, earlier created a fund to support state security employees, who decided ‘to switch to the bright side’. More High Tech Park resident companies may consider Belarus a no-go zone and will start relocation if repressions continue.

Around 600 High Tech Park workers arranged a gathering along Minsk Beltway to support PandaDoc. The gathering was dispersed by OMON and unidentified plain-clothed people who arrived with them in minibuses with no registration plates.

The official website of Lukashenka’s Office of the President was reportedly hacked on Wednesday following continuous post-election crackdown on IT sector workers. The main page of the Office’s website was replaced with a white-red-white flag, and ironic collages featuring Viktar Sheiman, who is regarded as one of the most trusted Lukashenka’s advisors and allies among the Belarusian ‘hawks’. According to Lukasehnka himself, Sheiman has been cleaning Belarus from ‘bandits’ in the 1990s ‘with a pistol in hand’. Sheiman is often pointed at as the person responsible for enforced disappearances of Belarusian politicians and journalists.

Six journalists, namely Nadzeya Kalinina and Aliaksei Sudnikau (both – tut.by), Siarhei Shchohaleu, Mikita Dubaleka, Maryia Elyashevich (all three – Komsomolskaya Pravda in Belarus), and Andrei Shauluha (BelaPAN), were detained on September 1 when performing their professional duties, and remain in custody. They had all required documents, badges and press vests. The pretext for the arrest was ‘document checking’.

Some of their colleagues spent the night at the police station as a sign of solidarity with the detained. Media workers are now being held by the police for the second day. They were supposed to have trials on Wednesday, but the cases were sent for revision. They are being charged for alleged participation in an illegal mass event.

Reportedly, one of masked OMON witnesses who was present in a court case of Maryia Eleshevich, was uncovered by her lawyer who has realized that person (who called himself policeman Aliaksei Kavalyou) is actually not the witness whom he saw before, but some another person.

Late on Wednesday, the journalists were brought to Akrestsina detention center that has become globally known for the use of torture in its walls. The journalists were delivered to Akrestsina in a minibus without state registration number plates (which is illegal under national laws).

Viasna human rights center reports over 500 recorded cases of state-conducted torture since August 9. On September 1, a group of UN experts acknowledged having received 450 documented cases of torture used by the Belarusian state officials against the protesters. Reportedly, numerous victims of torture are afraid of repressions and remain silent. Reportedly, some people became respondents in criminal cases for mass disturbances when trying to file legal complains against state-orchestrated post-election torture.

Tut.by journalist Vadzim Zamirouski was brutally detained when performing professional duties in the afternoon. He was later released.

Andrei Yankovich, who was detained at solidarity march on August 30 in Hrodna who parodied Aliaksandr Lukashenka and was holding a poster ‘The President is not real’, was sentenced to 7 days in jail.

Former state TV hosts, Dzianis Dudzinski (Денис Дудинский) and Dяmitry Kakhno (Дмитрий Кохно) were detained on Wednesday. They were earlier fired for their statements against police violence.

At least one person was detained in Novaya Baravaya residential area following a provocation by pro-Lukashenka group that drove into the area. Novaya Baravaya became very widely known as an iconic area of peaceful resistance with almost 90% of its 6,000+ residents supporting Tsikhanouskaya according to official voting results.

A member of the Coordination Council presidium, Maxim Znak, reported that many parents are being threatened at schools and kindergartens across Belarus that children may be removed to orphanages if their adults will continue to attend protests for Lukashenka’s resignation.

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