Just a few weeks in the past, Belarusian sound engineers Vladyslav Sokolovsky and Kirill Galanov have been arrested for taking part in an iconic Soviet-era protest tune at a pro-government rally in Minsk.
Now, they’re amongst round two dozen pro-opposition Belarusians who’ve sought refuge in neighbouring Lithuania- together with opposition chief Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. “I am not even interested by going again in the intervening time. It isn’t clear what is occurring and it is harmful,” Sokolovsky, 30, instructed AFP.
Sokolovsky was jailed for 10 days for his act of defiance on August 6 — simply earlier than a presidential election that has led to unprecedented mass protests towards President Alexander Lukashenko’s 26-year rule. The musician remembers being held in solitary confinement, then in overcrowded cells, and disadvantaged of a cot however he was spared the beatings handed out to different pro-democracy protesters.
After being launched, Sokolovsky was taken in for questioning once more for a number of hours on August 21 on the inside ministry and was threatened with extra legal fees. “The following day I made my approach to Lithuania with the assistance of the embassy,” he mentioned, including that Lithuania had initially supplied help after he performed the tune “Peremen!” (Adjustments).
The act turned the tune, carried out by Russian Eighties rock star Viktor Tsoi and his band Kino shortly earlier than the autumn of the Soviet Union, into an anthem and a rallying cry for protesters. A clip of the tune has even been tweeted by Lithuanian International Minister Lina Linkevicius with the phrases in English: “Belarus has awaken”.
‘In secure environments’
Waves of repression in Belarus have turned Lithuania, an EU and NATO member, into a spot of refuge for pro-democracy Belarusians. For the reason that crackdown in Belarus, Lithuania has eased coronavirus restrictions to permit in individuals from Belarus on “humanitarian grounds”.
Poland has additionally introduced an easing of entry restrictions to let in fleeing Belarusians, in addition to providing to deal with anybody injured within the latest violent crackdown on mass protests. An inside ministry spokeswoman mentioned Lithuania has accepted 22 Belarusian activists thus far — half of whom have requested political asylum.
“All of them are in secure environments,” the spokeswoman mentioned, including that one other 14 activists have acquired permission to reach in Lithuania however haven’t but crossed the border. Lithuania’s provide of shelter for protesters is a part of a broader diplomatic effort to spice up worldwide assist for protests in Belarus.
These strikes have angered Russia, which helps Lukashenko and has condemned Vilnius for what it calls an “undisguised interference within the affairs of this neighbouring state”.
Lithuania and Belarus have shut historic ties, courting again to the 14th-century Grand Duchy of Lithuania, however have adopted very totally different paths for the reason that breakup of the Soviet Union.
The Baltic states are firmly anchored within the West, having joined the European Union and NATO in 2004, however Belarus has was one of many world’s most remoted states beneath Lukashenko. Belarusians like Sokolovsky could have little selection however to comply with unfolding occasions from afar.
“I am a musician, I play the guitar. However in the intervening time I am less than it. I’m attempting to resolve remotely all my issues at house.”