Today the of the Supreme Economic Court of Belarus has dismissed the cassational appeal of the inspection of Taxes and Duties Ministry and upheld the decision of the economic court of Minsk, by which the legality of actions of the Republican public association “Belarusian Helsinki Committee” in the framework of the program of the EU technical support to Belarus (TACIS).
In the end of May, during the Week against forcible detentions, the leader of the civil initiative “We remember”, member of the Council of Civil Initiatives “Free Belarus” Iryna Krasouskaya, has taken part in the field session of the UN Working Group Against Forcible Abductions. The 75th session of the working group has become the first field meeting, which took place in Asia and in head offices in Geneva and New York.
The Embassy of the United States of America expresses its grave concern over the May 31 conviction and sentencing of Nikolay Statkevich and Pavel Severinets to three years of restricted freedom and corrective labor. Both individuals were already convicted and served jail terms for their participation in the protests which followed last October`s deeply flawed election and referendum.
Member of the European Parliament Prof. Rolandas Pavilionis protests against exceedingly cruel verdict to opposition leaders Mikola Statkevich and Paval Sevyarynets, passed by Belarusian court yesterday, and calls it “the steps taken by the authoritarian Belarusian regime aiming to destroy the political opposition before the presidential elections planned for 2006”.
The term of re-registration of party structures from living quarters has ended today. As said by Justice Minister of Belarus Viktar Halavanau at a press conference, before June 6 all branches of parties and public associations which failed to transfer their offices from living quarters to commercial and industrial premises would be liquidated.
The largest shareholder of Group Menatep Leonid Nevzlin in his interview to Gazeta.ru told that verdict to Platon Lebedev and Mikhail khodorkovsky places Vladimir Putin in line with post-Soviet dictators despised in the West. “I think that it is unjust, illegal, cruel verdict to Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev is a sign of weakness, not of strength. And it is the beginning of the end for Putin,” Nevzlin said. “Firstly, now it is clear that the democracy is ruined by them. No freedom of press exists now, every court has become “Basmannyj” or “Meschanskiy”, and any political opponents must stay in prison. All characteristics of dictatorship are present, and Putin has put his name alongside with Lukashneka, Islam Karimov and other Post-Soviet dictators’ ragtag”.
In Zhodzina the hunger strike against expelling of democratic youth from educational institutions continues for the 7th day. The protest started on May 25. Six young people are taking part in the protest: Zmitser Chartkou, Alyaksandr Vinahradau, Yauhen Vaukavets, Syarzhuk Murashka, Paval Karaniukhin and Syarzhuk Marchyk.
One of the Belarusian opposition activists, former MP and the head of a deputy group “Respublika” Syarhei Skrabets continues a hunger strike in prison for the 17th day, told the lawyer of the former deputy, Mikhail Khomich, to Radio Svaboda. He also told that Alyaksandr Skrabets, younger brother of Syarhei, was released on May 31 with a written undertaking not to leave the place.
The Belarusian Helsinki Committee (BHC) has condemned harsh sentences handed down to prominent opposition figures Nikolai Statkevich and Pavel Severinets on May 31. The politicians were sentenced to three years of “restricted freedom” for staging a series of demonstrations against the official results of last October’s parliamentary elections and national referendum marred by massive fraud allegations. They will have their terms shortened by a year under the amnesty law that took effect earlier this month.
Students at the journalism faculty of Belarusian State University collected signatures to an appeal against what they view as politically motivated expulsion of 3rd year student Olga Klaskovskaya, a political correspondent of the embattled private newspaper Narodnaya Volya.
Belarusian leader Aleksandr Lukashenko on May 31 received Vladimir Zhirinovsky, vice speaker of the State Duma (lower chamber of Russia`s federal parliament) and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR).
Student organizations of Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine are ready to help Belarus’ youths in their efforts to promote democracy, Oleh Yatsenko, leader of Ukraine’s Students’ Brotherhood (Studentske Bratstvo), told reporters in Kyiv on Monday.
“It was an entirely unjust ruling, and a completely illegal one. It is an attempt to remove from the political arena the people who really work and struggle with the existing dictator’s regime. It is an attempt to intimidate people who want changes. The ruling has been passed to preserve the level of fear in the society. A brutal clear-up of political field is carried out. But the actions of the authorities are rather revealing the weakness of the authorities and its fear facing the inevitability of changes,” told the chairman of the Belarusian Communist Party, one of the possible single candidates of democratic forces, Syarhei Kalyakin, commenting on the verdict to Belarusian opposition leaders Mikola Statkevich and Paval Sevyarynets, who had been sentenced to three years of corrective labour for organizing opposition protest rallies. According to the politician, the ruling to Mikola Statkevich, who had been nominated as a candidate for presidency by the Belarusian Social Democratic party (Narodnaya Hramada) and the European coalition, could show that in this or that way the repressions are to concern every one who state their intention to participate in the elections as presidential runner.
“Within a short period of time the number of political prisoners in Belarus has doubled. Now they are Mikhail Marynich, Valery Levaneuski, Alyaksandr Vasilyeu, Yuri Bandazheuski, Andrei Klimov, Syarhei Skrabets, Mikola Statkevich and Paval Sevyarynets. But this awful verdict, this another attempt to intimidate the Belarusian nation, would lead to opposite effect. This shocking verdict to Belarusian opposition leaders would demonstrate the whole world that a cruel dictatorship exists in the center of Europe in the 21st century, and that one should struggle against it uncompromisingly,” told the coordinator of the civil initiative “Freedom to political prisoners!”, member of the “Free Belarus” Pavel Marynich, commenting on the verdict to Mikola Statkevich and Paval Sevyarynets.
On 31 May Minsk Tsentralny Borough Court issued the accusative sentence on the criminal case against the oppositional activists Paviel Sieviaryniets and Mikalai Statkievich. According to the court verdict, both politicians were sentenced to three years of jail. Human Rights Center Viasna expresses its decisive protest against the continuation of political repressions in the country and considers the issued sentence illegal and politically motivated. The accusative sentence was another bright evidence of the absence of independent court system in the Republic of Belarus, where the authorities fulfill repressive functions in Lukashenka’s authoritarian regime instead of rendering justice and defending the rights of citizens.
President Lukashenko, the International League for Human Rights, an international non-governmental organization with special consultative status at United Nations Economic and Social Council, expresses profound concern about the latest attack on the pro-democracy movement in Belarus after the trial and sentencing of two opposition leaders in Minsk.
A group of Polish and Lithuanian MEPs is pushing for a tougher EU line on Minsk, with proposals to deepen the diplomatic isolation of president Alexander Lukashenko`s regime and for the EU to support pro-democracy movements in the country. Six centre-right MEPs along with several Belarusian, Polish, Latvian, Lithuanian and Ukrainian politicians issued the call during an EPP-ED group-sponsored conference in Bialowieza, eastern Poland, on May, 29.
The European Commission gave a muted reaction to the MEPs` appeal, saying the EU`s existing common position already covers much of the same ground, and noting that the independent media project has been kicked around in Brussels for some time.
The West clearly demands that Belarus should be freed of what it calls the last dictatorship in Europe. I am afraid that Russia-West confrontation in this area could end in a head-on clash. President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko is not former Ukrainian leader Leonid Kuchma: He will suppress the slightest sign of protest, especially by young people. The West may intervene by providing help to the protesters, forcing Lukashenko to seek assistance from Russia, and the Kremlin will be hard put to deny it. After the defeat in Ukraine, Belarus has become doubly important to it for communications, defense and access to the Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad. Belarus is very nearly the last ally of Russia in the former Soviet Union.
Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan told his Belarus counterpart Leonid Semeonovich Maltsev Tuesday that the Chinese armed forces are ready to enhance friendly, cooperative, multi-level ties with the Belarus army in various fields.
Another rally against renaming Skaryna avenue was stopped by riot policemen yesterday In the evening of May 31 about 25 people lined up along the avenue by the building of the National Bank with the portraits of the first printer. Among the participants were chairman of the United Civil Party Anatol Lyabedzka, leader of the Belarusian Popular Front Party Vintsuk Vyachorka, the head of the human rights center “Viasna” Ales Bialatski. In five minutes SWAT policemen arrived in two buses, and started to squeeze the forced the protesters away from the avenue. Policemen led the activists to the Kirov and Kamsamolskaya Streets by Dinamo stadium, and after that the protesters took away the portraits of Skaryna and disbanded. On Monday riot policemen tore the portraits of Pyotr Masherau while detaining human rights watchdog Valery Schukin, and this time they tore a portrait of Skaryna.
David Zhvania, Ukrainian Minister for management of emergencies, told that the report of the Belarusian Meteorological Office was the grounds for spreading rumours about malfunction at Chernobyl atomic power station. “The first information was given by the Meteorological Office of Belarus. It has announced that very warm air is moving from the territory of Ukraine, and most probably it means some troubles at Chernobyl atomic power station. Later they corrected themselves that it is Rivno atomic power station, and they are trying to sort out the information. Later this information was caught up by others,” he told during the hot line in the Cabinet of Ministers.
A Chagall went off for $650,000 at the Paragis, major Minsk-based antiquarian auction house, May 29. An awkward sensation came a few days later-the canvas was fake, Lyudmila Khmelnitskaya, Marc Chagall memorial house/museum manager, said to Novosti on Tuesday.