MINSK — A Minsk rally for Belarusian opposition presidential candidate Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya has been canceled, just hours after the candidate’s campaign chief was detained and “warned” by authorities not to stage what they called “unsanctioned” gatherings.
The rally had been scheduled for the evening of August 6 at the People’s Friendship Park in Minsk.
But the candidate’s press secretary, Hanna Krasulina, announced shortly before the rally was due to begin that the campaign was informed by e-mail that an event celebrating Belarusian railroad workers had been scheduled at the same location.
“They’re not allowing us to hold a rally at a single venue in Minsk, same as in Slutsk and Soligorsk,” Krasulina said.
“These actions by the authorities are completely unlawful,” Krasulina said. “We have appealed this decision with the Prosecutor-General’s Office, the Central Election Commission, and the Minsk City Executive Committee. But we won’t provoke people.”
Earlier on August 6, Tsikhanouskaya’s campaign chief Maryya Maroz was briefly detained by authorities in Minsk and “warned” of possible repercussions for staging “unsanctioned” rallies.
Krasulina told RFE/RL that Maroz was stopped and detained by several men near the entrance of the Lithuanian Embassy in Minsk.
Maroz said the men were officers from the Interior Ministry’s Directorate on the Fight Against Organized Crime and Extremism.
She said the men transported her to the Interior Ministry’s directorate where they “warned” her about “responsibility” for organizing “unsanctioned public events” before they released her.
Meanwhile, Belarusian authorities on August 6 continued to detain other members of Tsikhanouskaya’s campaign team and her supporters in towns and cities across Belarus.
They include campaign event coordinator Andrey Khilchyk, who was arrested by police in the southeastern city of Homel, and Dzmitry Tsit, a campaign representative in the western city of Hrodna.Khilchyk was coordinating Tsikhanouskaya rallies scheduled for August 7 and August 8.
Tsikhanouskaya has managed to gather tens of thousands of supporters at rallies in Minsk and in other towns and cities across Belarus in recent weeks.
Belarus Votes For President
Read our coverage as voters in Belarus decide on August 9 whether President Alyaksandr Lukashenka will continue after 26 years in power.
Incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s 26 years of authoritarian rule in Belarus look increasingly vulnerable ahead of the August 9 election.
But many analysts say he is likely win through a combination of fraud and the repression of an energized opposition.
Early voting started on August 4.
Opposition politicians, rights activists, and critics of Lukashenka have called on citizens to refrain from early voting, charging that it gives Lukashenka loyalists more opportunities to rig the election results.
The Belarusian Central Election Commission said on August 5 that turnout during the first two days of early voting was 12.75 percent of the country’s 6.8 million eligible voters.
With reporting by tut.by