Belarus: arrests of people and paintings

Hundreds of protesters arrested across Belarus

Belarus: arrests of people and paintings

A large-scale protest rally in Minsk was a response to the arrest of Viktor Babariko, the main opponent of Alexander Lukashenko in the upcoming presidential elections in Belarus

The answer to the arrest of Alexander Lukashenko’s main opponent in the upcoming presidential elections in Belarus was a human chain that stretched for several kilometers along the center of Minsk late last night. Viktor Babariko managed to submit the necessary one hundred thousand signatures, and his detention does not mean a refusal to register. Investigators have already called the ex-banker “the organizer of illegal activities ordered by puppeteers from Gazprom.” About 20 of Babariko’s colleagues and associates were also arrested. But the most unexpected hostage of the situation was the collection of works by Marc Chagall and other famous artists.

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This is Minsk last night. In a human chain, or, as it was dubbed in social networks, thousands of people lined up for change. Cars passing by the KGB building were beeping incessantly, and this chorus must be heard by Alexander Lukashenko’s main rival in this election. Viktor Babariko was detained on Thursday and placed in the KGB pre-trial detention center. Babariko’s headquarters reported: 425 thousand people signed up for their candidate. Only the incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko overtook him – his initiative group says about one and a half million signatures collected.

Viktor Babariko is Lukashenka’s main competitor in the upcoming elections

The completion of the acceptance of subscription lists in the election commission coincided with a targeted attack on Belgazprombank, which Viktor Babariko headed for twenty years. The bank underwent all state inspections annually, but last week investigators from the State Control Committee came to the bank with searches. On the eve of Lukashenka ordered to “grope the pot-bellied bourgeoisie”.

Soon, the State Control Committee, represented by its chairman Ivan Tertel, announced the initiation of criminal cases on tax evasion and money laundering. Tertel added that the authorities know the puppeteers of the detainee, namely, “the big bosses in Gazprom, and maybe even higher.”.

In the evening of the same day, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry invited the ambassadors of European countries and the Charge d’Affaires of the United States to clarify the situation with the detention of the number one candidate from the opposition. Belarusian officials dodged journalists’ questions.

Apparently, Russia has no questions about what is happening in Minsk so far. Press Secretary of the Russian President Dmitry Peskov called Babariko’s detention “an internal affair of Belarus”.

“We consider this an internal affair of Belarus, in this case, of course, we do not intend to somehow interfere in the internal affairs of Belarus,” TASS quoted Peskov as saying..

Lukashenko’s press secretary Natalya Eismont assured that on Friday the presidents of Belarus and Russia held a telephone conversation, during which the situation around Belgazprombank was not discussed.

However, the EU is already concerned about the situation. EU issues statement urging Belarusian authorities to release Babariko and ensure real competitive conditions in the election campaign.

“The EU calls on the Belarusian authorities to immediately release Viktor Babariko and his son Eduard from pre-trial detention and guarantee full respect for the rule of law, including the right to a fair and transparent investigation and the right to a lawyer. Any investigation must be impartial and without political pressure, ”the statement said..

In addition to criminal arrests, the authorities actively use administrative punishments. A number of oppositionists receive new “days”, not having time to leave the previous ones. Belarusian human rights activists reported a gross violation of international norms to a number of special rapporteurs and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The situation is also being monitored at the embassies of Western countries. The US mission has so far limited itself to signing a general statement on the Belarusian elections.

“For our part, we would like the Americans to be more active, to assess what is happening. We are very grateful to the United States for supporting the independence of Belarus. On the other hand, human rights are a universal value that should not depend on geopolitical preferences and things, ”says Valentin Stefanovich from the Viasna human rights center..

Not only people, but also paintings were arrested in Belarus. For many years “Belgazprombank” and personally Viktor Babariko bought at auctions artifacts of value for the country, including paintings by world famous artists, natives of Belarus: Marc Chagall, Chaim Soutine, Osip Zadkin and others. 150 works worth $ 20 million were removed from the exhibition and attached to the criminal case. The curator of the collection, however, is far from calling these paintings hostages..

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“I would not draw parallels between life … And the fact that the works were checked, counted and put in their place. The fact that they were involved in the processes is undoubtedly “, – says Alexander Zimenko, curator of the corporate collection of Belgazprombank..

But these processes angered users of social networks. The portrait of “Eve” by Chaim Soutine became a symbol of popular disagreement. The Belarusian Internet was full of “Eve” in place of avatars, under the hashtags “Evolution” there were numerous cartoons about life in a country where even a picture could be imprisoned.

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Belarus: arrests of people and paintings
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“Eva expresses that in this cultural sphere there is a critical view, an active position, a caring position and a desire to participate in the life of society. It is significant for me that this is a woman … we have a number of candidates, ”says philosopher Olga Shparaga from Minsk.

After the searches, the gallery did not give up. Now the location of each object is neatly marked with scotch tape, with a CU code in the middle. The staff say that there are even more guests than before the seizure of the paintings. And the most popular question that has to be answered is where was Chaim Soutine’s “Eve”?

  • Artem Gurevich

    Has been working in journalism since 2001. From 2005 to 2009, he was responsible for public relations at Nokia in the Russian Far East. He worked in Singapore, Thailand, Brazil and Argentina, developing corporate publications for Coca-Cola and Kaspersky Lab companies. In 2017, he participated in the restart of RTVI, worked as an Internet news editor at the channel’s New York office. On the Voice of America since 2018.

Belarus: arrests of people and paintings

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