Brest against hazardous plant: protesters leery of authorities

On June 16, more than 200 Brest residents came to the central square and fed pigeons, which stands for the peaceful protest against constructing and launching a battery factory in the city. The protesters in Brest were not concealing their satisfaction, as the local authorities had suspended the operation of the plant.

The battery plant near the city has been built by a Chinese corporation. The project was commissioned by the iPower company. It is planned that the plant will have a full cycle of production of lead-acid batteries.

“There are two documents: the order signed by Anatol Lis, Chairman of Brest Regional Executive Committee, and the order by the Environment Ministry that suspends the plant’s nightly and weekend work,” protester Yuliya Zubik said.

Almost 40,000 signatures were collected against the construction of the plant; over 18 months, people have been gathering together on Sundays to show their discontent, but both the local authorities and Lukashenka’s administration ignored them. Many protesters were detained and fined; a criminal case was initiated against one of them; the police were on the back of the journalists covering the protests. But the people have stood up to the pressure.

“After the plant had been in operation for a month, they measured the grade of lead concentration. I think the results obtained have made them think about what will happen next,” Andrey Slizh, an active participant in the protests, said.

While the iPower was getting equipment up and running equipment, the initiative group of opponents started a ‘lead guard’. As a result, the activists caught the plant’s pouring liquids into drains at night.

“We found the well to which all those liquids were poured and opened it. Firstly, we conducted a litmus test themselves. It showed there was concentrated alkali. Then Dzmitry Bekalyuk sent the sample to the Vodokanal company, they confirmed our finding,” Aleh Vyalau, a member of the ‘lead guard’, told Belsat.

The operation of the plant was suspended, but still, it is not a victory yet. Ipower is set to have another environmental impact assessment conducted. And the protesters are leery of the chairman of Brest Regional Executive Committee.

“We do not have full confidence in him. We filed ten requests for meeting with Anatol Lis. But it is not until now, when our guys proved the fact of contamination, that he has reached out to us,” peaceful protester Lyudmila Karchevskaya stressed.

“During the meeting with Anatol Lis, we voiced our position: our protest will continue until the plant is closed down,” Yuliya Zubik warned.

The locals not only consider the battery plant near Brest potentially dangerous, but also demand justice:

“We are seeking to put to justice those who committed violations of all the laws during construction, commissioning, designing the plant,” Andrey Slizh said.

In spite of the presence of the police, no one was detained in the course of Sunday’s event. The protesters marched along the central streets and announced another rally to monitor whether the authorities would stand by their promises.