Protester handcuffs himself to truck to halt construction near Kurapaty

An opposition activist on Friday handcuffed himself to a truck and threw away the key to halt construction work at a site near Kurapaty, a scene of Stalin-era mass executions.

Braving rainy and windy weather, Syarhey Palchewski, a member of an opposition youth group called Malady Front (Young Front), lay on the ground as fellow activists and local residents wrapped him in blankets and brought bottles with hot water to help him get warm.

Mr. Palchewski appeared tired after hours of lying on the ground in front of the truck but told a BelaPAN correspondent that he was feeling well.

Police eventually removed the young man from the truck and attempted to lead him away, but several activists grabbed him and the officers let him go.

Opposition activists have been present at the site in northeastern Minsk round-the-clock since Monday in an attempt to block the construction of a five-story office building. They insist that the project is a threat to Kurapaty's conservation area.
During Mr. Palchewski's protest, Malady Front activists Zmitser Dashkevich and Uladzimir Yaromenak stood in the way of excavators heading to the construction site but were pushed away by construction workers. However, Mr. Dashkevich, a former political prisoner, climbed over the high fence encircling the site and onto the roof of an excavator's cab. Addressing construction workers, he warned them of "responsibility for crimes" and urged them not to obey "criminal orders." "Take leaves of absence but do not participate in construction," said Mr. Dashkevich, wrapped in a white-red-white flag.

He stressed that activists were ready to handcuff themselves to construction equipment at the site every day.

Paval Sevyarynets, a leader of Belarusian Christian Democracy, discussed the situation with a construction foreman, who said that the builders were halting their work and no construction would be done on Saturday.

The politician stressed that construction should be suspended until law enforcement agencies conducted a probe into whether the project was legal. He urged activists and local residents to turn up at the site at 8 a.m. on Saturday to make sure that no construction was being done. "Otherwise we will be blocking construction equipment," he warned.

The days-long protest has drawn much support from residents of multiple apartment buildings in the area, who describe the construction project as illegal and have already complained to the Presidential Administration and a district prosecutor's office.

Opposition and civil society activists have also complained to authorities.