Six years ago, the fourth presidential election was held in Belarus. But that day is remembered not so much for results of the voting – that were rather predictable –but for the reaction that the numbers triggered. TUT.BY recalls the events of that evening.
On Sunday night, 19 December, tens of thousands of those who disagreed with the official results, came into the streets in what is known to be the largest mass protest in the modern history of Belarus. The protest ended dramatically.
10 candidates were running up for presidency – a record number for Belarus. Among opposition candidates, Andrei Sannikov, Vladimir Neklyayev and Yaroslav Romanchuk enjoyed the highest ratings. However, according to the Central Commission of Belarus on Elections, Sannikov, who was the runner’up to Alexander Lukashenko with his 80%, did not even won 3%.
Even before the polls closed candidate Vladimir Neklyayev was attacked by unknown people in black uniforms. The leader of the “Tell the Truth!” movement and his supporters were attacked not far from their office.
As the opposition leaders later admitted, they had no single plan of action for 19 December.
10 to 25 thousand protesters gathered at October Square in the centre of Minsk. The politicians were calling for a new election – without the candidacy of Alexander Lukashenko. The column reached the Independence Square practically without any interference on the side of police.
There the opposition announced that they were going to enter the government building for the talks.
However, unidentified men began to smash windows in the building. Some opposition members tried to stop them, but it was too late. Riot police arrived and rigidly dispersed the protesters.
More than 600 people, including seven presidential candidates, were arrested, 49 detainees became defendants in a criminal case on the riots.
Their trials took place in the following months.
Five ex-candidates were sentenced to different prison terms. Andrei Sannikov was sentenced to five years in prison, Dmitry Uss to five and a half years, Nikolai Statkevich to six years in jail, Vladimir Neklyayev got two years of suspended sentence and Vital Rymasheuski – to two years of probation.
Those events were the most serious blow to the relations between Belarus and the West in the modern history of the country. The West imposed sanctions on Minsk, that were in place for five years later, until the last political prisoners in that case were released.