Before and after Victory Day celebrations in Belarus, over 100 opposition figures, bloggers, and journalists – and even subscribers to their social media networks – have been detained in the authoritarian Eastern European country. A common thread between all the recent arrests has been reporting from regions of the country.
Concerns have been raised by human rights center “Vesna” (banned in Belarus), and by the Belarusian Association of Journalism, and has been reported on by local media and the BBC.
One of the arrestees, blogger Sergey Petrukhin, was arrested on May 11 for a stream from an April rally against the construction of a battery plant near Brest. He was charged with “disturbing the peace” and and for “holding public events”.
Another blogger, Sergey Tikhanovsky, was detained on May 6 during a meet-and-greet with his social media subscribers. Tikhanovsky was also critical of the government and announced his candidacy for presidential elections, currently scheduled for August. One of Tikhanovsky’s associates was also detained on May 9 for attempting to orchestrate an “antiparade” during the official Minsk Victory Day parade.
The BBC reports that these activists, bloggers, and journalists, had many of their court hearings on May 11 and 12. It also became clear on May 11 that many Belarusian political parties that position themselves as “oppositionists” to the dictatorship of Alexander Lukashenko have declined to participate in presidential elections.
Despite the coronavirus, Lukashenko is going ahead with the election, and is again projected to be the “winner” in the country. The Belarusian head of their election commission has stated that Belarus “does not have the time” to implement anti-coronavirus measures, despite Belarus’ growing coronavirus infection count.