Associates demand release of arrested Shumchanka
Activists of a small business association called Perspektyva have demanded the immediate release of their leader, Anatol Shumchanka, who was arrested by police on Thursday afternoon.
Thousands of small business owners with sole entrepreneur status in Minsk, Mahilyow, Homyel, Brest, Polatsk, Kastsyukovichy, and Baranavichy are staging a one-day strike to protest the possible introduction of new certification rules for imported clothing and footwear within the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.
Mr. Shumchanka and three reporters were intercepted by police at about 12:30 p.m. while they were driving to the Parking shopping center in downtown Minsk. The reporters were soon released without a charge, but Mr. Shumchanka remains in custody.
“Stop using barbaric measures,” Vyachaslaw Pilipuk told reporters near the building of the economy ministry. “Let’s go to the negotiating table and discuss our problem.”
An activist of Perspektyva, Zhanna Pilyuha, said that if Mr. Shumchanka was not released soon, sole entrepreneurs would continue their protests and stop paying taxes on July 1. The campaign against the introduction of the new certification rules is purely economic at present, but protesters are ready to raise political issues and demand withdrawal from the Customs Union, among other things, if the situation does not improve, she said.
According to Mr. Pilipuk, sole entrepreneurs were scheduled to meet with Alyaksandr Hruzdow, head of the economy ministry’s enterprise department, on Thursday afternoon to discuss the government’s draft directive that provides for delaying the introduction of the rules by one year.
Under discussion will be the shortcomings of the draft and measures to amend the rules to take the interests of small business owners into account, Mr. Hruzdow said. //