Minsk remembers Chernobyl under KGB scrutiny
27.04.12 15:43 By Denis Lavnikevich (Minsk), Anna Baraban (Minsk), edited by Semyon Kvasha
KGB photographed the opposition, too Photo: ITAR-TASS
On April 26, for the 26th anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe, the opposition held their traditional rally "Chernobylsky shlyakh"
A little less than one thousand people protested against the building of the Ostrovets nuclear power plant. They also discussed political issues: the release of political prisoners and a boycott of the upcoming September parliamentary elections.
The rally started near the National Academy of the Sciences building. The protesters flew the banned white-red flags of the first independent Belorussian state and slogans "Chernobyl – our pain", "There's no peaceful atom", "No to A-plant building". There were leaders of opposition movements "Tell the truth" and "Young Belarus", parties "Belorussian Christian democracy" and "Belorussian Popular Front" and also activists of the youth section of Russian party Yabloko.
The leader of unregistered Belorussian Party of Freedom Sergey Vysotsky declared the creation of movement "New Belarus against the Ostrovets A-Plant".
Riot police tried to stop his speech and detain the politician, but rally participants were able to defend him.
After that he immediately started collecting signatures against the atomic power plant.
An orthodox priest then prayed for the victims of the Chernobyl catastrophe.
Three activists of the citizens' campaign "Tell the truth" put on a performance. They put bread, sweets and condensed sweetened milk on the table and offered it to people, warning them that they are going to eat it at their own risk, since the food was grown and manufactured in radiation-contaminated regions.
Then the column marched towards the rally point, followed by plainclothes KGB officers and riot policemen, who filmed the activists, especially those giving interviews to media. There were disabled Chernobyl liquidation veterans in wheelchairs, women and children in the column, carrying posters with the slogan "One Chernobyl is enough". The cars honked, and the plainclothes photographed the license plates of those who dared. People joined the march, soon there were more than 3 thousand participants.
Later, LGBT activists with rainbow flags joined the head of the column. In the evening news, state channels highlighted the gay participants in the rally, declaring "The union of gays and the opposition under European flags." But actually "Chernobylsky Shlyakh" activists were not overjoyed by the gay and lesbian presence. After a short fight, opposition activists confiscated one of rainbow flags and and sent them to the very tail of the marching column.
Opposition leaders and presidential ex-candidates had to use megaphones for their speeches: the rented car with sound equipment was detained by the militia right before the rally.
In one moment a "Young front" representative went onstage and said they had thought long about the rally's slogan, and then unfolded a poster saying "Papa, are you a fool?" specifically insulting Belorussian president Alexandr Lukashenko, who likes to be called "Bat'ka"
"The fact that the plant is being built by Russia and according to Russian technologies doesn't guarantee that Chernobyl won't be repeated," said one of the leaders of opposition Alexei Yanukevich. "an Atomic plant won't decrease Belarus's energy dependence on Russia, it increases it many times. By building an A-plant with Russia, Belarus tightens a noose on its neck and gives the rope to the Kremlin."
At the end of the rally, participants passed a resolution demanding a stop be put to the A-plant in the Ostrovets district. After the resolution, the protesters started to disperse. Organizers asked the participants to go in groups – to avoid getting arrested. Still, apprixomately 40 people were detained.
"Chernobylsky Shlyach" happens in Minsk every year since 1988 as a march and a rally. The only exception was 2011 when the authorities forbade the action. There were trials of presidential ex-candidates and other participants of December 19, 2010 rallies, so that any opposition actions were forbidden.
This year, before the rally, Belarus militia and the KGB tried to prevent some leaders of the opposition from attending. Thursday at noon, the militia detained "Tell the truth" activist Igor Simbirev and arrested him for 10 days on charges of petty hooliganism.
That very morning, deputy leader of the "Young front" organization Nikolai Demidenko was blockaded in his flat after he didn't open the door to unknown people in plainclothes.
The day before, somebody tried to enter the flat of one of the "Green" party leaders Vladimir Volodin. Later in the interview to the "Khartiya-97" internet site, he said: "Before such rallies, traditionally, different characters break into my flat, uniformed or plainclothes. I know they come to detain me before the rally, so I just don't spend those nights at home."
Only Minsk authorities allowed the match, in all other Belorussian cities all "Chernobyl" activities were forbidden.
In Slonim local district administration forbade the picketing because they "Didn't understand the language of application": the document was written in Belorussian, the state language many citizens of the country don't know, they speak Russian.
April 26 1986 4th block of Chernobyl nuclear plant exploded. This accident was the largest anthropogenic catastrophe in the history. 300 times more radioactive matter was thrown into the air than after Hiroshima bombardment. Although the plant itself was on Ukrainian soil, It was Belorussia that suffered the most damage.
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