Civil right activists in Belarus, a country that itself has a poor human rights record, on Monday organized a demonstration in support of freedom and human rights in Tibet. This footage shows the Belarus militia move two demonstrators further away from the entrance of the Chinese embassy in Minsk. Charter 97 reports that two demonstrators were detained and are in custody of the KGB.
via Silver Meikar, MP in Estonia
Tags: lukashenko, medvedev, putin, ussr
Vilhelm Konnader discusses the idea circulating in Moscow that Russia and Belarus would form a union with Vladimir Putin as president. I suppose this concept would foresee Dmitri Medvedev as the president of the Russian Federation and Alexander Lukashenko as the president of Belarus. Putin would be a federal president.
Vilhelm does not seem to believe that this would be a realistic scenario (with the reservation that nowadays you can expect just about anything from Moscow):
A union between Russia and Belarus fundamentally contradicts the Putin plan’s policy of modernization, and the only reason why it might still be seriously considered, would be as a concession from the liberals to the security structures for letting Medvedev succeed Putin as president of Russia. The question one must then ask, is if the ongoing Kremlin power struggle has been allowed to go so far, as to enable even the craziest ideas. If the union and similar ideas would materialise, people will in a few years time look back with nostalgia to the relative peace and quiet of the Putin era.
I can think of another reason why Putin might be interested. This could be considered as a first step to re-create the USSR. If so, it would put this video of mine in a totally new perspective.
Edit: The Other Russia also seems to make a connection between Putin’s endorsement of Medvedev and the rumored Russia-Belarus union:
Rumors of a possible Union between Belarus and Russia with Putin as president swirled in the mass-media during the past week. Some commentators, including Gennady Zyuganov of the Communist party, still saw this as an option. Zyuganov said that the latest endorsement was part of the plot “orchestrated by the Kremlin.”
Svenska Dagbladet writes that a Swedish local politician has been denied an entry visa to Belarus. Christian democrat councilman Jonas Hillerström in the town of Borlänge has been participating in a Belarus democracy project. He has visited Belarus on three occasions.
In September Mr. Hillerström appeared in a panel discussion about political activities of Belarus youth. The discussion took place in context of the book fair in Gothenburg. Mr Hillerström made some critical points during the discussion.
The day after the discussion councilman Hillerström applied for a visa for another visit to Belarus. The application was turned down without any motivation whatsoever.
The Estonian paper Postimees quotes Polish customs officials as saying that Polish truck drivers are not being allowed into Belarus if they are unable to present a condom at the Belarus customs. Truck drivers entering Belarus through the Polish town of Terespol report that the condom must be in their mandatory first aid kit. Marzena Siemieniuk, spokes person of the local customs, confirms that the Polish customs have heard about many similar incidents.
Belarus diplomats in Poland say that there is no law requiring a condom. According to truck drivers, a condom is required when driving from Poland to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad but it is very rarely controlled.
According to the Swedish paper Dagens Nyheter, four young activists were set on trial in Belarus on Monday. They are being prosecuted for being members of an unregistered organization and seeking to prepare for a coup.
19 year old Boris Garetskij, 18 year old Zmiter Fedaruk and 16 year old Nasta Palazjanka admitted in court that they have taken part in activities of an organization called Maladyj Front. They said, however, that they are being tried in violance of the Belarus constitution and human rights. 22 year old Oleg Korban denied all charges.
According to Dagens Nyheter, a verdict of guilty could prompt sky high fines or imprisonment up to two years.
I just received a news letter from Team of Belarusian Freedom Day Online saying that a demonstration is about to begin in Minsk. Real time on line reporting on the scene at Kolas Square has started for half an hour ago.
The police have closed a nearby subway station and the square itself. Demonstrators are not allowed to the square.
An extract of the news letter:
Lukashenka regime holds on the ability to hide the oppression of the civil society by creating an information vacuum. The website 25 Belarusian Freedom Day Online is created to publish uncensored news about the event this year and thus resist the propaganda of Belarusian state media. You can help bringing democracy in Belarus by spreading the information about the website http://en.belarusy.eu in order to show the international community how Belarusian regime treats peaceful demonstrators and to draw more attention to the problem of democracy in Belarus.
Let us spread the news, folks!
Estonian member of Parliament Silver Meikar was not allowed to enter Belarus early Saturday morning. He was traveling together with a Belarus support group activist to observe the celebration of Belarus Freedom Day on Sunday. The Freedom Day, celebrated by the opposition, coincides with the first anniversary of mass demonstrations after the fraudulent presidential election in Belarus. A tent camp raised by oppositional demonstrators on October Square in Minsk was brutally bulldozed by the KGB a year ago.
Silver Meikar was driving to the Lithuanian Belarus border at 2.30 a.m. local time on Saturday. Although he and his travel companion Jelena were issued valid visas by the Belarus consulate in Tallinn, they were stopped at the border quoting “problems” with their passports. After two hours of waiting, a high ranking officer told Mr. Meikar that he was suspected of having contacts with local politicians and an order not to allow him to Belarus had been received through “diplomatic channels”.
According to a Third Way Newsletter I received on Friday, a freshly opened web site at en.belarusy.eu is going to cover the demonstrations and celebrations on the Freedom Day in practically real time. The coverage is scheduled to start at
8 a.m. Sunday morning local time, that is at 0500 GMT 0800 GMT on Sunday.
It looks on the surface like Russia and Belarus were having serious disagreements on the price of gas delivered by Russia. Baring in mind, however, that Gazprom does whatever the Russian government is going to tell them to do and the fact that Belarus dictator Lukashenko practically eats from the hand of Russian dictator Putin, I would suggest that the whole point of the show is to demonstrate to EU how dependable they are on Russian gas supplies.
If the supplies will be disturbed in January, Russia is bound to soon tell the EU what they want to call off the comedy. At that point there will be no problem with reaching a settlement with Belarus. The Russians are really targetting EU, not Belarus which obeys Russian orders as it is.
As the Belarus oppositional site Charter97.org reported as early as 1st September, the active members of the civil initiative “Third way” were experiencing persecution by the Belarus regime because they were publishing political comics that ridiculed the Lukashenka regime. The Minsk Procurator’s office were preparing a case against the publishers of the comics under accusations of libel against Aleksandr Lukashenka. “Third Way” activists Paval Marozau and Andrei Abozau were in Kiev at that point, seeking support from Ukrainian civil right activists to distribute the political comics through the Internet.
Charter97.org reported late last week that Paval Marozau had been summoned to the prosecuter’s office where he was formally identified as a suspect in libel against the Belarus dictator Lukashenka. The charges were based on material confiscated by the KGB during apartment searches of three members of “Third way” last year.
According to information from well informed sources that I received today, Paval Marozau was about to be arrested at any moment. A high profile civil right lawyer in Minsk had refused to represent him because he regarded the case as hopeless. The lawyer had unofficial information that a show trial against Mr. Marozau was predetermined to end up with a four year imprisonment verdict.
At that point, Paval Marozau managed to escape Belarus through Moscow. He arrived in Tallinn this morning where he was met up by Mr. Silver Meikar, a member of the Estonian Parliament. Mr. Meikar has visited Belarus several times before being sworn in as a MP yesterday. He was also one of the first persons to raise a tent in the demonstration tent camp at Kastrychnitskaya Square in Minsk after the fabricated presidential election in March this year.
Silver Meikar told me during a session of the Estonian parliament today that Paval Marozau is his close friend. He was glad that Mr. Marozau had managed to escape Belarus, apparently at the very last moment.
“Paval has a one year multiple visa to Estonia”, Mr. Meikar told me, “which will allow him to stay here for the moment. While the Estonian bureacracy is sometimes stif, I hope he could get a work permit and permanent permit of residence within a couple of months.”.
According to Mr. Meikar, Mr. Marozau has an academic degree and he would be interested in joining his fellow Belarus civil right activists in the University of Tartu. 10 Belarus students are attending the university as a part of the Estonian government’s scholarship programme for Belarus students who were expelled from universities because of their political activities.
For all the friends of Paval Marozau who must be concerned about his safety and whereabouts, I am happy to immediate his greetings that he is safe and well. He is staying with Mr. Silver Meikar at the moment and can be reached through the MP’s e-mail email@example.com.
The day after tomorrow is the 16th of the month which makes it the international day of solidarity for Belarus. The lights will be turned off in thousands of homes in Belarus and candles lighted and placed at windows. Demonstrations are going to take place in many cities outside Belarus.
I have seen many bloggers (among others Kristjan) call for giving your signature in a web petition to support the release of political prisoners in Belarus. If somebody thinks that signing a petition is a good idea, that is fine. I am not sure it would be the most effective way to show my solidarity.
Those who would read the petition do not know me which is why my name would not have an effect on what they think. Those who are interested in my opinion would be likely to read it in my blogs. The signatures of George W Bush, Angela Märkel or Tony Blair would have a greater effect but they have other means to make their message heard.
So I express my support for those fighting for freedom and democracy in Belarus here in the blog. As from today, this banner is in my sidebar:
Anybody who wants to put up the banner will find it at http://za.nashih.info/files/banners/svobody_88_eng.gif. You should make it link to http://za.nashih.info/eng/. One would obviously not exclude the other but I find displaying the banner more effective than signing the petition.
Four Belarus activists of the non governmental organisation Partnerstva were convicted to jail in a closed door trial in Minsk, the Estonian daily Eesti Päevaleht writes. They were convicted for participating in actions of an unregistered NGO.
The Belarus regime refused to register the independent NGO Partnerstva and dissolved the NGO’s constituting conference. Partnerstva wanted to observ the Belarus presidential election in March. Members of the organisation have participated in election observing missions among other countries in Ukraine and Estonia.
25 year old Mikalai Astrejka was sentenced to jail for two years and 24 year old Enira Branitskaya for six months. Both have participated in several educational projects in Estonia to promote civil rights. In addition to the two, Tsimafeoi Dranchuk was sentenced to jail for one year and Alaksandr Shalajka for six months.
The trial was held behind closed doors. The families of the defendants as well as journalists and independent observers were denied access to the court. Several embassies in Minsk protested against the secret court hearings.
Added: The BBC quotes OSCE chairman Karel De Gucht:
The long sentences given to two of the young persons can only be said to be disproportionate to the charges. All four have done nothing to merit imprisonment.
Tags: Kazakhstan, space
The BBC reports that a Russian rocket carrying 18 satellites crashed 86 seconds after its launch in the Russian operated space center of Baikonur in Kazakhstan. Baikonur is the largest space center of the World.
17 of the 18 satellites were being launch for foreign customers, including Belarus:
One of those was to have been the first satellite operated by Belarus, whose president, Aleksander Lukashenko, had gone to Baikonur to see the launch, local media reported.
Apparently, the Belarus dictator brings bad luck just by his presence.
The Swedish satellite TV distribution company SES SIRIUS has filed a complaint to the EU Comission against the Swedish government. The company alledges that the government’s guidelines would create a new distribution monopoly in context of transition from analogue to digital TV transmissions. Sweden is scheduled to cease analogue transmissions in February 2008.
According to SES SIRIUS, the government’s guidelines fail to fulfil the EU directive that calls for all distribution channels to be treated equally.
The company’s press release makes this accusation:
The Swedish Government has created a legal framework for the preferential treatment of the digital terrestrial network, acting in in contravention of EU directives on the switchover from analogue to digital television transmissions.
Meanwhile, Swedish radio news reports that the government owned company Rymdbolaget, which has a 25% portfolio in SES SIRIUS, is criticizing the distribution company for plans to close a deal with the notorious Belarus TV. The deal would result in the Belarus TV being carried by the Swedish sattelite and seen 24 hours a day allover Europe. EU and international human rights and press freedom watchdogs have for years pointed out that there is no freedom of press and independent media in Belarus.
While there is no doubt that carrying the propaganda transmissions of the Lukashenko administration in a Europe wide sattellite is unethical, I do not believe that it is coincidental that this news breaks out just a day after SES SIRIUS filed their complaint. The government’s criticism against this distribution deal is justified per se but it looks to me that everything is not clean in their own house either.
I do normally not react to anonymus comments in the web but this one was just too ignorant to be neglected. It was added to Marcel Bartels's post about the current events in Belarus:
"Was geht uns das an. Wir sollten uns erstmal um unser Land kümmern. Das ist nicht unser Problem. "
The rough translation would be: "What is that for our business. We should first take care of our own country. That is not our problem."
The fact that it was written in German of all languages just made my mad. It made me mad because it reflects exactly the same attitude that the rest of Europe and the World was showing against the events in Germany in 1930'ies. Hitler was regarded as a harmless fool and if he was dangerous for somebody, it was not our problem.
Europe certainly learned a tough lesson from Hitler. When Germany was divided in two parts, one of which was under a communist rule, the rest of us no longer thought it was just their problem. Had we ignored the problem, chances are that the Soviet empire could still exist today like it did for less than 20 years ago and the Germans would still be living in two countries.
Belarus is one of the remainders of the Soviet empire. The Lukashenko regime is not in the least different from the Soviet regime. This guy is dangerous. He has ambitions. He wants Belarus and Russia to unite and he wants to become the president of that united country. He also wants to restore the Soviet empire in its ancient glory.
Not our problem? Least of all, I would have expected to read anything that stupid written by a German. Belarus may seem as far away as Germany seemed to be in 1930'ies and Lukashenko may seem to be as ridiculous as Hitler used to. But I do not hear people laugh in Minsk. Nor should we laugh at Lukashenko anywhere else, least of all places in Germany.