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vogus
Mar 23rd, 2006, 04:03 AM
By YURAS KARMANAU, Associated Press Writer Wed Mar 22, 6:12 PM ET


MINSK, Belarus - Inga made a stack of pancakes, packed them carefully in her bag and sped to a small tent camp in the center of Minsk, eager to provide homemade food to opposition activists.

But her plans were cut short by beefy police officers who intercepted the 19-year-old student, locked her in a detention cell and force-fed her all the food she had prepared.
"I was crying already after the third pancake, but they laughed and said, 'Keep going!'" Inga, who declined to give her last name out for fear of being expelled from her university, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Despite widespread fears, Belarusian law enforcers so far have not taken any direct action to disperse demonstrators camped out in one of the capital's central squares since Sunday, when authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko overwhelmingly won a third term in a vote the opposition and the West dismissed as rigged.

Instead, activists say, authorities have resorted to detaining, harassing and otherwise intimidating scores of protesters on the sidelines of the square including support people like Inga who keep the demonstration going by providing food, clothing and other necessities.

Irina Dorofeichuk, a 36-year-old management teacher, was sentenced to seven days on charges of hooliganism after police officers accused her of cursing. The real reason, she says, is that she was carrying food and warm clothing to the protesters.

"I didn't believe that something like that could happen to me in the 21st century in Europe," Dorofeichuk told AP. "All the authorities want is to humiliate your human dignity."

Residents of the tiny tent camp are feeling the authorities' pressure in other ways. Lights on the usually festive square were turned off, prompting protesters to light their tent city with candles.

On Wednesday, city workers welded shut a sewage hatch that protesters had been using as a toilet. Many fear this will make them more vulnerable to detention by policemen when the activists leave the camp.

Activist Mikhail Avdeyev experienced that firsthand. He said he was going to buy a pack of cigarettes when three riot policemen beat him up. He showed an AP reporter multiple bruises on his face and chest. "They beat and treat you like dogs," he said bitterly.

Police declined to comment on whether they would resort to force to disperse the protesters. But riot police regiment commander Yury Podobed told reporters that the rally would not be suppressed, the Interfax news agency reported.

At any rate, the number of protesters seemed insufficient to push the government for political change. Alexander Milinkevich, the main opposition candidate who challenged Lukashenko, has told activists they had already scored a huge victory by speaking out against the authorities.

Many activists intended to keep up their protest.

"They beat me up, but I am still standing here for Belarus," Avdeyev said. "No matter how many blues, bruises, cuts and shots on my body I will stay here till the end with everybody, with my brothers and sisters who want freedom for our Belarus."

After the results of Sunday's election were announced, thousands of protesters thronged the square calling for a new vote an unprecedented act in Belarus, which has a history of imprisoning opposition figures and violently breaking up rallies.

Even though the number of protesters is much smaller than the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators who ushered opposition leaders to power in Georgia and Ukraine, authorities are still intent on curbing the protest, which they see as embarrassing.

vogus
Mar 23rd, 2006, 12:41 PM
bump.

*JR*
Mar 23rd, 2006, 01:37 PM
Lukashenko has (with considerable help from Moscow, a reward for his open nostalgia for "the good old days" of the USSR) kept the economy running rather smoothly. (Unlike in UKR and GEO B4 their revolutions the last couple of years). Sure he padded his vote in the election (83% officially) and denied the opposition media access and arrested their activists to keep them from turning out the vote. But he'd have pretty certainly won even a fair election. As Team Clinton famously said in '92: "Its the economy, stupid".
:shrug:

vogus
Mar 23rd, 2006, 05:22 PM
well, do you think that's legit to say Lukashenko won 83%, when he actually won like 55% and more than 20% were stolen from the opposition candidate? Pretty reasonable to be upset it about i'd say.

*JR*
Mar 23rd, 2006, 06:25 PM
well, do you think that's legit to say Lukashenko won 83%, when he actually won like 55% and more than 20% were stolen from the opposition candidate? Pretty reasonable to be upset it about i'd say.
He probably got more than that, as the Western media in repressive countries don't develop roots in the countrysde so much, and dissidents tend 2B in the capital & other big cities. I'm not defending the Nazi loving SOB, but the rural areas tend to vote on economic issues. (Again, Russia subsidizes its most loyal ex-Soviet republic pretty well). And the Byelorussians never really had freedom anyway (just a short-lived Republic in 1918 that Lenin soon crushed).

BTW, Yakushenko's party has already lost the lead in the polls for the upcoming parliamentary election to that of Yanukovich only a year after Ukraine's Orange Revolution. The big price increase for (Russian) natural gas during a record cold winter is a major reason for that. And Shakashvili is having a political rough patch in Georgia, 2 years after the Rose Revolution there.