In fear of provocations: Presidential hopeful suspends campaigning in big cities

On Wednesday, wannabe presidential candidate Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya posted a video message, in which she takes off the table picketing in large Belarusian cities on the upcoming weekend.

“I would like to officially address the coordinators and members of my initiative group due to the fact that our people continue to be detained. You are being punished with jail terms and arrests, provocations are taking place at pickets to collect signatures in my support. I kindly ask you not to stage pickets in the city of Minsk and all regional centres of Belarus in the next few days (Friday, Saturday and Sunday). I fear that all kinds of provocative acts might be committed against you these days. Believe me, no signature collected is worth your and your families’ suffering,” she said.

According to Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, they will keep on campaigning in the regions where ‘there are not so many people’. The initiative group is set to submit as many signatures as they will manage to collect, she added.

Over the last two weeks, thousands of people throughout the country have been lining up to put their signatures for ‘any on the list but for the incumbent president’. Especially large queues formed after popular vlogger Syarhei Tsikhanouski, a trustee and husband of presidential hopeful Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, had been detained in late May.

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In May, Syarhei Tsikhanouski, the author of Youtube channel Страна Для Жизни ( A Country for Life), revealed his presidential ambitions while serving a 15-day jail term for participating in unauthorised mass events.

However, the Belarusian Central Election Commission refused to register his initiative group. According to them, only a person who intends to campaign for the presidency must sign the documents.As Syarhei Tsikhanouski was in custody at that moment, all the necessary documents were signed and filed by his wife. On the back of the situation, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya managed to get her initiative group registered instead.

On May 29, the police arrested Syarhei Tsikhanouski, head of his wife’s nomination group, and at least 15 persons during a peaceful picket in Hrodna. It should be noted that one of the women (Alena K.) who showed up at the picket attempted to stir up a conflict with Tsikhanouski, which resulted in pushing and jostling. According to the official version, one policeman fell down and had to be taken to hospital. On May 30, the Interior Ministry initiated criminal investigation into an alleged act of violence against two police officers.

The police searched the homes of the most of the detainees; some were transferred to Minsk remand prison #1.

A few days ago, the Belarusian Investigative Committee stated that Syarhei Tsikhanouski and seven other persons were charged under Art. 342-1 (planning actions that grossly violate public order) of the Criminal Code of Belarus. The above article may carry a punishment of up to 3 years in prison.

Top election official seeks to open another criminal case against blogger Tsikhanouski