25 Mar 2006

Crackdown in Belarus


Wearing the red beret is SOBR (Special Forces of the Ministry of the Interior) commander, Colonel Dmitry Vasilyevich Pavlichenko, arrested and accused November 2000 of “being the organiser and head of a criminal body engaged in the abduction and physical elimination of people.”

Over ten thousand demonstrators answered opposition candidate Alexander Milinkevich’s call to participate in a Saturday protest rally against the Lukashenko regime’s March 19th electoral fraud. The rally was timed also to commemorate the Independence Day of the first Belarussian Republic of 1918. Faced with police blocking access to the main square in Minsk, the demonstrators moved their rally to a nearby park.

Over the last few days, hundreds of arrests were made, including not only the protesters camped in tents in October Square, but also journalists, Pavel Mazejka (the press spokesman for opposition candidate Alexander Milinkevich), and today rival opposition leader Alexander Kozulin.

Kozulin had called for demonstrators to march on Okrestino prison to demand the release of political prisoners. The march had begun, when Colonel Pavlichenko’s Interior Ministry Special Forces units confronted the marchers, fired tear gas and stun grenades, and then proceeded to charge the protesters, swinging truncheons. photos

Casualties are not yet known. A number of people were hospitalized. At least one, Siarhey Atroshchanka, sustained a serious head injury.

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