Opposition should not abandon its traditional Chernobyl anniversary marches, politician says

Belarus’ opposition should not abandon its traditional Chernobyl anniversary demonstrations called Charnobylski Shlyakh (Path of Chernobyl), Mikalay Statkevich, chairman of the Narodnaya Hramada Belarusian Social Democratic Party, said in an interview with BelaPAN on Monday.

People should be aware of the environmental and health impact of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident, the politician said.

“We should show in public our stance on the Chernobyl aftermath that differs from the stance taken by the government,” he said. “People also expect this from us. If we refuse to demonstrate our principles, it will mean that they are not strong enough.”

The April 25 local elections may give voters a chance to elect members of the local soviets who are ready to address Chernobyl-related problems, if the elections are democratic, he said.

“We have an opportunity to meet the following day after the elections with independent candidates and members of their teams to learn from them whether Belarusian citizens were allowed to exercise their right and elect pro-democratic deputies who could defend their interests in the fight against the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster,” Mr. Statkevich added.

Last week the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF) announced that it had decided to abandon its traditional way of commemorating the Chernobyl nuclear accident.

Unlike in previous years, when the Belarusian Popular Front applied for permission to stage the Charnobylski Shlyakh march in Minsk on April 26, this year’s applicants mostly include members of the Belarusian Christian Democracy party.

Unfortunately, in recent years, the march has turned into a "ritual event" that draws people of all ideologies, from right-wing extremists to anarchists, said BPF Chairman Alyaksey Yanukevich. They use the demonstration for self-promotion and not to draw public attention to Chernobyl-related problems, he said.