Political demonstrations in Minsk in April 1998 [BYS38690.E]

Three hundred people participated on 2 April 1998 in Minsk in a demonstration against the union of Russia and Belarus during which a Russian flag was set aflame (Minorities at Risk June 1999). The demonstration was organized by the Belarusian Popular Front (BNF), the main opposition movement in Belarus (Keesing's Apr. 1998, 42233). Among the 40 protestors arrested were Pavel Sevyarynets, the leader of the BNF's youth branch, charged with "malicious hooliganism" and Lyavon Barshcheusky, acting BNF chairman, whose case was later dismissed for lack of evidence (ibid.).

A chronology of political events provided on the Belarusian.com Website states that, as reported by RFE/RL's Belarussian service:

The Belarusian Popular Front, the main opposition force in Belarus, staged an unauthorized demonstration on 2 April to protest official festivities marking the first anniversary of the union between Belarus and Russia.... While the authorities celebrated the national holiday with concerts and street fairs, several hundred oppositionists shouted slogans such as "Belarus Lives!" and burned the Russian flag. "It is an artificial holiday, dedicated to an artificial union. We recognize neither this union, which does not meet our national interests, nor this holiday,"Vyacheslaw Siwchyk, a Belarusian Popular Front activist, was quoted as saying (2002).
As the opposition demonstrators started to disperse, unidentified plainclothes policemen emerged from nearby automobiles and attacked many of the demonstrators.... Witnesses say the police arrested some 20 protesters from the BelarusianPopular Front, including its acting chairman Lyavon Barshchewski and deputy chairman Yury Khadyka. Some 200 members of the front's youth branch tried to march toward the president's residence, but they were beaten and dispersed by about 150 riot policemen armed with batons and shields.

On 12 April 1998, about 70 persons participated in a demonstration to mark the third anniversary of the eviction from parliament of opposition members by Belarusian special forces (Minorities at Risk June 1999).

The Belarusian.com chronology states that some 7,000 demonstrators marched in the streets of downtown Minsk on 25 April 1998 to mark the 12th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. According to the chronology,

the marchers, led by opposition politicians, shouted slogans against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime and demanded freedom for imprisoned oposition activists. They also demanded that Lukashenka be dismissed for"malicious disregard of the deadly danger of the Chornobyl catastrophe, economic collapse, and deliberate devastation of the national culture" .... The police detained some 30 protesters, including 17 members of the Russian Anti-Fascist Youth Movement who came from Moscow to take part in the rally.... The next day the police released all the Russian detainees and deported them on a night train to Moscow. (2002)

A 26 April 1998 AFP report states that the 17 Russian demonstrators were temporarily detained in a detention centre of the ministry of the interior. Among them were two female minors who were released two days later.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Agence France Presse (AFP). 26 April 1998. "Bélarus-politique: manifestants

russes à Minsk: deux mineures libérées." topic@alc.afp.com (NEXIS)