Opposition activists demonstrate in Minsk on anniversary of former Interior Minister Zakharanka’s disappearance

Opposition activists staged a demonstration in Minsk’s downtown Kastrychnitskaya Square on Thursday on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of former Interior Minister Yury Zakharanka.

Up to 150 people took part in the protest, including prominent opposition leaders, Mikalay Statkevich, Vintsuk Vyachorka, Andrey Sannikaw, Dzmitry Bandarenka, Artur Finkevich and Syarhey Skrabets.

Participants formed a line along Independence Avenue, Minsk’s main thoroughfare, chanting, “Long Live Belarus!” “Freedom!” and “Freedom to Political Prisoners!” and displaying images of General Zakharanka and Mikalay Awtukhovich, one of three jailed opponents of the Lukashenka government whose prosecution is widely believed to be politically motivated.

Riot police were holding back the demonstrators, preventing them from approaching the roadway.

On the initiative of Dzmitry Bandarenka, leader of the Charter ’97 opposition group, the gathering observed one minute’s silence in honor of General Zakharanka.

At least eight people were arrested over the unsanctioned demonstration. In particular, shortly before the protest, plainclothesmen picked up Anatol Lyabedzka, chairman of the United Civic Party, and opposition activists Maksim Syamchyla, Raman Bahdanovich, Syarhey Kazakow and Syarhey Maksimkaw.

On completion of the demonstration, police arrested Anton Koypish, Syarhey Semyanyuk and Iryna Smeyan.