Belarus regime attacks protests, forced to free unionists

By Roy Landersen
November 23, 2020

Many thousands protested in Minsk, the capital, and in other cities across Belarus Nov. 8. They marched despite the authoritarian government of Alexander Lukashenko sending in riot police, who broke up converging columns of demonstrators before they could rally in the center of the capital, which had been surrounded by an array of armored vehicles.

“The marches are still significant,” Hanna Varsotskaya wrote in a Nov. 10 email to the Militant from Minsk. But “after last Sunday’s march when more than 1,000 people were detained, and we hear now about beating and torturing,” the feeling was, “We are back in August.” She was referring to the way Lukashenko’s regime responded with brutal assaults and mass arrests when huge protests broke out after he claimed a landslide victory in Aug. 9 elections whose results were clearly falsified.

Backed by Moscow, Lukashenko is now resorting to heavier police attacks, trying to hang onto power after three months of strikes and demonstrations all across the country. Protesters are demanding his resignation, an end to cop brutality, the freeing of political prisoners and new elections.

Working people continue to back the protests, even if some are intimidated from joining in. Many Minsk residents opened their doors Nov. 8 to offer shelter to demonstrators fleeing the cops, or passed warm food and drink to those confined by the police in outdoor compounds in freezing conditions.

Outbreaks of strikes and on-the-job resistance by thousands of workers have posed serious obstacles to Lukashenko’s 26-year rule. He has subdued some of these actions for now by arrests of strike leaders and threats of firings.

But authorities in Soligorsk were forced to release four jailed strike leaders from Belaruskali, the huge potash mining conglomerate there, Nov. 3, after they were flooded with thousands of messages from trade unionists all around the world. Pictured above after their release are Yury Korzun, left, Pavel Puchenia and Siarhei Charkasau. Anatol Bokun, co-chair of the strike committee, was released earlier the same day after 55 days in police custody.