Mass arrests in Belarus amid anti-government protests

  • Elisabeth Gheorghe
  • 26.3.2017 19:04

Belarus authorities detained approximately 400 people, including activists and journalists, on 25 March during a protest in capital Minsk, amid rising public discontent over falling living standards and an unpopular tax on the underemployed, dubbed the “social parasites” tax. Alleging that rallies had been unauthorised, arrests continued on 26 March, a move that has been condemned by the EU and US. 

Opposition group Vesna-96 reported that police raided their offices and detained some 60 activists, although they were later released. The tax slaps a levy of USD250 on those who work less than 183 days per year, while those registered as unemployed are exempt though are obliged to do community service for US10 per month – an initiative that is also ill-received among Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s supporters.

The recent crackdown was the culmination of the authorities’ hardening position on the protests, which have been ongoing since February. Belarus’ sputtering economy has been in reverse in recent years, suffering the cumulative effects of an economic downturn in Russia and wavering oil prices. Gripped by a recession, the average monthly salary has fallen from an all-time high of US630 in mid-2014 to US380. 

About author: Elisabeth Gheorghe

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