Meet Sergei Kachalov who was detained and tried for building a snowman in his yard and a “Long live Belarus” inscription on it. On Thursday, on 14 January, the 62-year-old was tried for holding a solitary picket with a snowman.
Sergei Kachalov lives in the village of Markovichi, Gomel region. On 24 December, he built a snowman near his house, put a red scarf on it, attached a moustache and wrote “Long Live Belarus!” at the bottom. The next day it started to thaw and the snowman melted. However, a few days later a local police officer visited the villager, he showed him a photo of the snowman and drew up a report on him for unauthorised picketing.
“Using white-red-white symbols and the inscription ‘Long live Belarus’, Kachalov deliberately hold a solitary picket without the appropriate permission of the regional executive committee, which expressed his socio-political sentiments, thereby violating the law on mass events,” Judge Tamara Zastavnetskaya reads out an excerpt from the police report.
“Well, it is correctly written, of course. But I just made a snowman by the shed. I didn’t pursue any political…uh… I didn’t participate in anything, I didn’t protest or run with flags. I just built a snowman. They can be of different forms – an ox-snowman, a fox-snowman. And I did write: ‘Long live Belarus’, as Yanka Kupala [a poet and writer – Ed.] said. I don’t think I wrote something bad. I didn’t write: ‘Do not live Belarus’. I want our Belarus to prospers, to live. I can’t understand why we are oppressed for this,” explains the man.
Judge Zastavnetskaya: Where did you build the snowman?
Sergei Kachalov: Well, near the shed, where I was shovelling the snow.
Judge Zastavnetskaya: Was the snowman visible from the street?
Sergei Kachalov: It was barely visible from the street. Yes, it stood there for about an hour. I went to stack firewood. And someone took a picture of it and, apparently, reported me. When my wife found out, she immediately erased the inscription and that’s it.
Judge Zastavnetskaya: What was your goal when you built this snowman?
Sergei Kachalov: I didn’t have any, I just made a snowman.
Judge Zastavnetskaya: What did you do after you built it?
Sergei Kachalov: I went to the shed to do my own business.
Judge Zastavnetskaya: Did you stand nearby, did you take selfies?
Sergei Kachalov: No, I didn’t. I was busy with my own business.
Sergei added that he did not pursue any political goals when he was building a snowman. He said that he was happy with his life: “We receive our pension on time. One can live and prosper in this country.”
The court sent his case back for revision, since, according to the judge, it was not clear from the report in what way the solitary picket was expressed. If convicted, Sergei Kachalov may face up to 15 days in jail or the maximum fine.