KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Belarus’ authorities on Monday handed a jail sentence to a manufacturing unit strike organizer and detained a number one opposition activist, a part of a methodical effort to stifle weeks of protests in opposition to the nation’s authoritarian chief after an election the opposition says was rigged.
President Alexander Lukashenko, who has dominated the 9.5-million nation with an iron fist for 26 years, has dismissed the protesters as Western puppets and rejected the European Union’s presents of mediation. After a ferocious crackdown on demonstrators within the first days after the Aug. 9 presidential vote that prompted worldwide outrage, his authorities has prevented large-scale violence in opposition to demonstrators and switched to threats and the selective jailing of activists to stem the protests.
Anatoly Bokun, who leads the strike committee at Belaruskali, an enormous potash manufacturing unit in Soligorsk, was detained by police Monday and handed a 15-day jail sentence on prices of organizing an unsanctioned protest. The manufacturing unit, which accounts for a fifth of the world’s potash fertilizer output, is the nation’s high money earner.
The Belaruskali strike committee spokesman, Gleb Sandras, mentioned authorities had managed to halt a strike on the manufacturing unit that started two weeks in the past and all its potash mines are actually working. He mentioned brokers of Belarus’ State Safety Committee, which nonetheless goes by the Soviet-era identify KGB, had pressured employees to finish the strike.
“KGB brokers have inundated the manufacturing unit, monitoring down probably the most energetic employees and utilizing varied technique of stress,” Sandras advised The Related Press. “The authorities have highly effective financial devices. They’re blackmailing employees with mass dismissals.”
Strikes at Belaruskali and plenty of different main industrial crops have forged an unprecedented problem to Lukashenko, who has stored the majority of the financial system in state arms and relied on blue-collar employees as his most important assist base.
Belarus Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Nazarov acknowledged Monday that the strikes posed an issue, however mentioned all main industrial crops have resumed regular operations.
Bokun’s detention follows the arrests of strike leaders at two different main industrial crops in Minsk final week. The organizer of a strike on the Grodno Azot, a serious producer of nitrogen fertilizers, fled to Poland to flee detention.
Searching for to stem the protests, Belarusian prosecutors have opened a prison probe in opposition to the opposition Coordination Council created to barter a transition of energy, accusing its members of undermining the nation’s safety.
Final week, Belarusian courts handed 10-day jail sentences to 2 council members and summoned a number of others for questioning, together with Svetlana Alexievich, who received the 2015 Nobel Prize in literature. One other council member, Lilia Vlasova, was detained Monday.
“That is the federal government’s response to our peaceable actions and presents of dialogue,” council member Maria Kolesnikova advised the AP. “It signifies that protests will develop.”
On Monday, Lukashenko ordered the dismissal of Belarus’ ambassador to Spain, Pavel Pustavy, who in a Fb publish referred to as for a recount of the election and criticized the beating of peaceable demonstrators. Belarus earlier dismissed its ambassadors to Slovakia and India for expressing assist for the protesters.
Belarusian authorities on Monday additionally denied entry to Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, the 74-year-old archbishop of Minsk and Mohilev., maintaining him ready for hours on the border earlier than turning him again to Poland. Final week, Kondrusiewicz strongly criticized the Belarusian police.
Each the U.S. and the EU have criticized the Aug. 9 election that prolonged Lukashenko’s rule as neither free nor honest and urged Belarusian authorities to speak with the opposition — calls that the 66-year-old chief has rejected.
On Monday, the EU’s Baltic members — Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — slapped journey sanctions on 30 high Belarusian officers, together with Lukashenko. EU overseas ministers are making ready their very own sanctions in opposition to as much as 20 senior Belarus officers suspected of election fraud and the violent crackdown on protesters.
Belarus’ Overseas Ministry spokesman, Anatoly Glaz, warned that Minsk would retaliate. Final week, Lukashenko threatened to reply by redirecting the stream of Belarusian imports through Lithuanian ports and blocking the transit of European cargo throughout Belarus.
Along with each day protests, the opposition held one other huge rally on Sunday, which noticed an estimated 100,000 individuals flood the streets of Minsk amid a heavy police presence.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, hailed the protesters’ braveness and urged Lukashenko on Monday to “acknowledge the truth within the nation — there must be an open dialogue between the management, opposition forces and all of Belarusian society to carry a couple of peaceable resolution.”
But on Monday, Lukashenko bluntly dismissed the opposition’s push to revive the nation’s earlier structure, which envisaged broad parliamentary powers.
A fierce clampdown on peaceable demonstrators after the vote noticed almost 7,000 detained, a whole bunch wounded by police rubber bullets, stun grenades and beatings, and no less than three protesters lifeless. Police then let the demonstrations go unhindered for the following two weeks, however final week once more cranked up the stress on demonstrators.
Over the weekend, the Belarusian authorities additionally cracked down exhausting on the information media, deporting some overseas journalists and revoking the accreditation of many Belarusian journalists. Two Moscow-based Related Press journalists protecting the protests in Belarus have been deported to Russia on Saturday. As well as, the AP’s Belarusian journalists have been advised that their press credentials had been revoked.
The Belarusian Affiliation of Journalists mentioned accreditation rights have been additionally taken away from 17 Belarusians working for different media, together with Germany’s ARD tv, the BBC, Reuters and AFP. The U.S.-funded radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty had 5 journalists lose their accreditation.
The U.S. and the EU have strongly condemned the Belarus authorities’s media crackdown.
Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Geir Moulson in Berlin and Liudas Dapkus in Vilnius, Lithuania contributed to this report.