Traditional Chernobyl anniversary march staged in Minsk
More than 500 opposition supporters and environmental activists took part in an authorized march in Minsk on Wednesday to mark the 31st anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident.
Speaking minutes before the 6:30 p.m. start of the Charnobylski Shlyakh (Path of Chernobyl) march in the square in front of the Kastrychnik movie theater, Ihar Lyalkow, deputy chairperson of the Belarusian Popular Front, told the crowd that the demonstration was meant to highlight the lasting aftermath of the world's worst nuclear disaster.
"The economic and social consequences of the accident will be felt for many years to come," he warned. "Whether it will be Chernobyl or Belarus that wins in the end depends on us."
Addressing the crowd, Tatsyana Novikava, of the Belarusian Party of the Greens, stressed that the Chernobyl aftermath continued to affect people's health. She also described the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant, currently under construction in the Hrodna region, as unsafe and said that the project should be halted.
Standing at the assembly venue, some 10 people displayed images of people detained by the Committee for State Security (KGB) in a so-called riot case.
A resolution demanding that the authorities stop building the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant was read out at the venue. The resolution also demanded an end to farming on contaminated lands and the restoration of privileges for former Chernobyl cleanup workers and Chernobyl-affected people. In addition, it urged the government to abolish Alyaksandr Lukashenka's April 2015 decree that introduced a so-called parasite tax and hold dialogue with society.
Displaying Belarus' historically national white-red-white flags, the crowd then walked in a procession down Surhanava Street toward the so-called Chernobyl Chapel in Peoples' Friendship Park near Bangalore Square.
Some demonstrators laid flowers at the Chernobyl Chapel before organizers announced that the event was over. No rally was held at the venue.
The Charnobylski Shlyakh demonstration has been staged by opposition forces in Minsk every year since 1988.