“BITU apart from intentions wants to see concrete actions as well”

OFFICIAL


POSITION OF THE EXECUTIVE BUREAU OF THE BELARUSIAN INDEPENDENT TRADE UNION ON THE PRESS RELEASE OF OJSC “BELARUSKALI” PUBLISHED ON JANUARY, 20TH 2021


БНП_логоThe Belarusian Independent trade union welcomes the intentions of OJSC “Belaruskali” to improve the health, safety and well-being of Belaruskali workers, as well as the readiness of OJSC “Belaruskali” to host Yara specialists on the ground for the monitoring of production processes, described in the press release dated 20.01.2021. We hope that for monitoring of production processes, these specialists will be provided with full access and the opportunity to communicate with specialists, workers at their workplaces, public inspectors and representatives of trade unions.

However, BITU apart from intentions wants to see concrete actions of the administration of the OJSC “Belaruskali”: the issuance of orders on the abolition of disciplinary sanctions, on the return of bonuses and other incentive payments to all employees punished for participating in the strike, and implementation by the administration of the Collective Agreement in full for all workers and trade unions, without any discrimination.

The Independent Trade Union also notes that the offer for “previously terminated workers to be employed back” proposed in the release, has nothing to do with the reinstatement of these workers. We call on the administration to discuss this issue directly with the people on strike.

Executive Bureau of BITU

Strike activist of Belaruskali arrested in Russia

SOLIDARITY

In St. Petersburg, on December 29, a member of the Belaruskali strike committee was detained upon a request for extradition to the Republic of Belarus. Andrei Prylutski is under arrest.

The extradition request was submitted by the Government of the Republic of Belarus in connection with the case against Andrei Prylutski under Article 364 of the Criminal Code – “violence against the police officers”.

Andrei was detained in Salihorsk on August 9: he shielded an elderly man who was beaten with truncheons by a group of people in balaclavas. The video of the detention is here. Prylutski has already been punished for “participating in the rally” on August 9. Then the Belarusians did not yet know that people in balaclavas and without identification marks were police officers and they should not be touched, otherwise it would be regarded as an attack. He spent 7 of the 15 days of his arrest in Salihorsk. In November, the internal affairs bodies of the Republic of Belarus again became interested in Andrei. On December 7, he joined the strike, even though he was an apolitical person before the well-known events.

фото стачкома Беларуськалия
Andrei Prylutski

It is known that after several interrogations, Andrei Prylutski left for Russia in search of work, where he was also going to apply for refugee status.

The diaspora of Belarusians in St. Petersburg helped Andrei to hire a lawyer. According to the lawyer Andrei Fedorkov, who is in charge of the Prylutski case, his client will be in pre-trial detention center #6 until January 14, then he will be transferred to pre-trial detention center #1 in St. Petersburg until February 6 as part of the extradition procedure.

Andrei Prylutski’s lawyer reports in an interview with Voice of America that “... after his arrest, Andrei Prylutski made a statement that he feared for his life and health in Belarus and that his criminal prosecution was politically motivated and connected with his social activities. And he added that he would ask for political asylum in Russia and object to his extradition to Belarus. The official request for asylum will be submitted after the end of the New Year and Christmas holidays in Russia. “

Andrei Prylutski’s comrade Aliaksandr Novik, a member of the strike committee, as well as a trade union activist at 1 Mine at Belaruskali, positively characterizes him as a peaceful, religious person who does not accept violence, the father of a large family: with his wife Inna, they are raising three children, 3, 9 and 12 years old. On the positive side, Andrei is characterized at work and in the parish. The strike committee of Belaruskali supports the family of their comrade.

The Belarusian Independent trade union and the Belarusian Congress of Democratic trade unions appealed for help to the fraternal trade unions in Russia with a request to provide possible solidarity support to a member of the independent trade union.

Using materials of Lider-Press Soligorsk, Solidarity, Voice of America, Mediazona Belarus

26 BMZ employees are on trial for the August strike

Belarusian Metallurgical Plant 

euroradio.fm


Trials over participants of the August strike at the Belarusian Metallurgical Plant have started in Zhlobin. On August 17, the operation of all three furnaces was suspended there.


Prior to that, the workers met with the management of the enterprise, and they were promised that no one would be punished for the meeting and the protest. However, the Investigative Committee later started a criminal case for “organizing and carrying out illegal group actions that grossly violate public order and are combined with obvious disobedience to the lawful demands of the authorities” (Article 342 of the Criminal Code).

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On December 28, the trial on this case against BMZ employees Ihar Povarau, Alyaksandr Babrou and Yauhen Hovar began. Protesting against election fraud and police terror, they and other workers blocked the road at the plant.

Also today, the Zhlobin district court began consideration of administrative cases against the participants of the meeting, which took place at BMZ on August 17. Although by law, the term of bringing to administrative responsibility is two months.

Dzmitry Eliseeu, a member of the independent trade union at BMZ, told Radio Svaboda that at first all the participants of the strike were involved in an administrative case. “Then – as witnesses in the criminal case. Then administrative cases were started against us again. Now 26 people are being tried under Article 23.34 of the Administrative Code,” Eliseeu said.

By the way, Eliseeu was fined for 405 rubles (15 basic units) for the strike today. Two more strikers received five days in jail each, he says.

Also, the trials for the August strike will be held on December 29 and 30. The vast majority are members of the independent union or people who have applied for membership.

Source: ЕЎРАРАДЫЁ

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Yara International visit to Belarus

OFFICIAL

On 10th of December there was a visit to Belarus of Yara International CEO Svein Tore Holsether accompanied by the Corporate Employee Representative of Yara International Geir O. Sundbø and two other representatives from Yara management.

Discussions behind the closed doors between the management of Yara and Belaruskali took place at Belarusian Potash Company headquarters. The questions raised there according to Svein Tore Holsether were about conditions fulfilling which Belaruskali would correspond to Yara’s Code of Conduct for Business Partners. Yara put forward several demands in line with this. Yara will publicize the improvements they have agreed with Belaruskali/BPC going forward.

At the same time there was a meeting at BPC of the Corporate Employee Representative of Yara and the chair of Belkhimprofsoyuz at Belaruskali. The majority of questions raised by the Norwegian unionist were concerning occupational health and safety, fatal accidents, possible discrimination based on union membership, punishment for participation in the strike, tariff agreement issues etc.

After the meetings at BPC there started a meeting at the Swedish Embassy in Minsk between Yara representatives and the independent union representatives. Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions was presented by its president Aliaksandr Yarashuk; Chairperson of the Belarusian Independent trade union was presented by its chairperson Maksim Pazniakou and the International Secretary of BITU Lizaveta Merliak.

The Independent union representatives clarified some questions that arose from the meeting with Belaruskali management and Belkhimprofsoyuz. The meeting lasted for two hours; and the two delegations agreed on keeping each other informed on the further developments of the situation.

Punishment above Independent union activists is on

IMPORTANT


The management of JSC Naftan dismisses the head of the department for the sale of oil products Volha Brytsikava – deputy chairperson of the primary trade union organization of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union operating at the enterprise. Volha (pictured) has been working at Naftan for 16 years. In August, she showed herself as an active participant in the protest movement at the enterprise. The Belarusian Independent Trade Union is sure that there is a reprisal against the trade union activists.


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Yesterday Volha announced that she was on her last working day, and the dismissal was due to the deprivation of her access to state secrets:

- Yes, indeed, today I was familiarized with the order on my dismissal in connection with the deprivation of my access to state secrets. That is, first there was an order to deny access to the state secrets, and then on the basis of this – dismissal. According to the Labour Code, such an option really exists,” Volha Brytsikava  told TUT.BY. – I was ready to fight against the fact that they are constantly trying to attribute to us a violation of labor discipline; but in my case it turned out to be different. Now I must first carefully read the grounds for denying me access to state secrets and deal with it. So far, to be honest, it’s a shock.

Employees of the enterprise interpreted this news as reprisal. Immediately the next day, several specialists from the enterprise went on strike. One of them, Aliaksandr Kapshul, who is a first-category legal adviser of the legal department of JSC Naftan,  noted in his video message that the company puts pressure on employees, including highly qualified specialists. For example, on the same day, Andrei Shkirenka, who had worked at the enterprise for 30 years, refused to start work and joined the strike.

The chairperson of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union, Maksim Pazniakou, believes that such actions by the Naftan management are nothing more than a blatant fact of non-compliance with the legislation and the current collective agreement of JSC Naftan :

- All elected trade union leaders are protected by collective, tariff and general agreements. Their dismissal without the consent of the trade union is unacceptable. Volha’s dismissal was not agreed, thus the employer violated the current Collective Agreement and corresponding legislation.

In the opinion of the trade union leader, in the nearest future the primary trade union organization of BITU of employees of JSC Naftan will hold a conference at which the actions of the enterprise management will be assessed. The trade union does not exclude that the next step could be entering into a collective labour dispute, which would mean a pre-strike situation.

Председатель БНП Максим Позняков
Chairperson of BITU Maksim Pazniakou

The pressure on activists and leaders of the Independent Trade Union is not limited by  Naftan. A criminal case was initiated against the employees of Zhlobin BMZ, as a result of the events that took place on August 17. The actions of the workers were classified as riots. The trade union believes that the actions took place on the territory of the enterprise and affected the labour sphere and thus should be qualified by the labour code:

-Ihar Povarau, a member of our trade union, one of the participants in the events of August 17, is now in custody  in Homel. We believe that this is nothing more than a reprisal, since the amount of losses of the enterprise was determined at 1000 BYR; and detention is too much for a punishment.

Also, the chairperson of the trade union told about an attempt to punish the chairperson of the primary trade union organization of BITU at JSC Belshina Siarhei Hurlo. Siarhei had previously served his sentence in two administrative cases under Art. 23.34 of the Administrative Code. Now the trade union has received an order for approval of his reprimand for violation of occupational safety and health regulations.

- The authorities and management of state-owned enterprises understand that there is no rule of law in this country, and thus they act absolutely illegally and cynically: dismissing, punishing for minor offenses. For example, Siarhei Sliazhou who was an employee of Zhlobin BMZ, refused to accept a shift task due to violation of labour protection requirements,” says the BITU chairperson. – He was reprimanded and fired on the same day for systematic violation. Since he already had a punishment earlier. Basically, they punished him twice.

Such actions of the authorities unite people who left the pro-government trade unions en masse and decided to create their own organizations. However, the authorities are showing their nature in this situation as well, by refusing to register new trade union organizations.

- We received a refusal for ridiculous reasons from the administration of the Maskouski district of Minsk to register two primary organizations of BITU. Once again it confirms the lawlessness in our country. Naturally, we will appeal against the decision, but we perfectly understand that the law in Belarus works only to keep the current government.

The Belarusian Independent Trade Union is sure that by such actions the authorities are pushing themselves into a corner:

“All those officials who are now breaking the law and behaving unscrupulously outside the legal field will be punished,” says Maksim Pazniakou. – “Sooner or later you will be punished, and you should be aware of this. We will not disregard any case. We will inform all international organizations about the rights of workers and trade unions  being violated. By your actions, you are only coming closer to the dead end, economic sanctions and the blockade of our enterprises. It will be your fault  if economic sanctions and an economic blockade for state-owned enterprises are introduced in Belarus. Don’t dig yourself a deeper hole!”

A member of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union was detained and arrested

IMPORTANT


A locksmith-repairman of the Belarusian Metallurgical Plant (BMZ), member of the Independent union Ihar Povarau was detained and arrested in Zhlobin on November 27, Viasna human rights center reports.


The detention took place on suspicion of committing a criminal offense – organizing a strike at the Belarusian Metallurgical Plant.

Фото: spring96.org
Photo: spring96.org

Human rights activists report that at least three more BMZ employees face criminal liability.

The decision to initiate a criminal case states that Yauhen Homan, Pavel Mahidau, Aliaksandr Babrou, Ihar Povarau, together with other unidentified persons on August 17 on the territory of BMZ, “organized illegal group actions that grossly violate public order and combined with obvious disobedience to legal requirements of authorities.” They stopped the movement of technological transport, which carries out the delivery of raw materials to the steel shops, which led to disruption of the plant, which resulted in the suspension of steel smelting on electric arc furnaces. As a result, the company suffered damage amounting to 1,088 BYN

It should be reminded that immediately after the events of August 17, about 200 BMZ workers decided to leave the pro-government trade union and joined the Belarusian Independent trade union. Global Union Federation IndustriALL was informed about the criminal charges against BITU members.

Belarus: Free dozens of jailed union activists

IMPORTANT


On 13th November an excursion bus with 43 activists from Soligorsk, members of Belarusian Independent Trade Union,  members of strike committee of Belaruskali and volunteers and civil society activists went to visit historical places of Belarusian protest. Yury Korzun, Pavel Puchenia, Aliaksandr Novik and other strike committee members who were previously arrested and sentenced to jail before were among them. On the way the activists had a minute of silence to commemorate the murdered by the police Minsk activist Raman Bandarenka. Later they visited the museum of Tadeusz Kosciuszko – the national hero of Belarus, Poland and the USA who fought for freedom and justice. The activists had been arrested by the police for hanging the white-red-white flag. They were taken to the police station in Ivatsevichy, later to Baranovichi and were kept in jail till court hearing on Monday, 16th of November. Minor kids were reported to be among the detained.


фото: тг-канал стачкома
picture: Telegram channel of Strike committee of Belaruskali

LabourStart online union platform in partnership with the BITU and ITUC has urgently started a solidarity online campaign to release the activists. It is supported by over 5900 unionists and activists by Nov.18th noon. The strike committee tried to involve human rights organizations to support the detained comrades. Human rights organizations were not let to communicate with the arrested activists.

The 45 people altogether including the excursion bus driver spent three days in police prison before the trial. On 16th of November the court hearings took place in Baranovichi. 23 activists were judged by the Baranovichi regional court. The rest was judged in police prison via Skype.

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Activists of Belarusian Independent trade union, the strike committee members and civil activists from Soligorsk that have taken part in a bus excursion, are accused of taking part in an unauthorized mass event under article 23.34 (parts 1 and in several cases 3) of the Administrative Code of the Republic of Belarus.

The sentences are as follows:

1. Yury Korzun 15 days

2. Pavel Puchenia 15 days

3. Siarhei Kazelka 15 days

4. Siarhei Taras 12 days

5. Piotr Pechkurou 12 days

6. Aliaksandr Novik 12 days

7. Aliaksandr Birulia 12 days

8. Maksim Malochka 10 days

9. Ihar Asipian 10 days

10. Viktar Yahorau 10 days

11. Yahor Siutsou 7 days

12. Anton Dziamkou 7 days

13. Aleh Haurylau 7 days

14. Valiantsin Skarbich 7 days

15. Raman Klevets 7 days

16. Yauhen Klachkou 5 days

17. Vital Belavusau 5 days

18. Dzianis Tarasevich 5 days

19. Viachaslau Barodzich 5 days

20. Yury Khatsianovich 20 basic units* fine

21. Dzmitry Sidarchuk 20 basic units fine

22. Nadzeya Asipian 20 basic units fine

23. Dzmitry Bykau 10 basic units fine

24. Vasil Zhylich 10 basic units fine

25. Aliaksei Karliuk 10 basic units fine

26. Ihar Zabrodski 10 basic units fine

27. Fiodar Hryntsevich 10 basic units fine

28. Aliaksandr Iljushyts 10 basic units fine

29. Uladzimir Kuchynski 10 basic units fine

30. Hennadz Munarou 10 basic units fine

31. Pavel Paulau 10 basic units fine

32. Siarhei Shupilau 10 basic units fine

33. Vadzim Falej 10 basic units fine

34. Maryna Ahievich 10 basic units fine

35. Volha Kananovich 10 basic units fine

36. Natallia Shafranovich 10 basic units fine

37. Yauheniya Falej 5 basic units fine

38. Tatsiana Bushkevich 5 basic units fine

39. Liudmila Dudzenus 5 basic units fine

40. Siarhei Barodzin fine

41. Aliaksandr Kuushynau fine

42. Andrei Fedarovich fine

43. Ihar Harbatsevich fine

44. Sviatlana Mikhalkovich fine

*A basic unit corresponds to 25 BYN (8.25 EUR)

The Independent union continues the online campaign.

Vice-chairperson of the Belarusian Independent trade union gets another 15 days in jail

ARRESTS


Siarhei Charkasau has been convicted under the Administrative Code for the third time in the past two months and will remain in prison for at least 45 days.


Siarhei Charkasau was supposed to be released on 18th of October, having served his arrest in Staryja Darohi. But instead of letting him out, he was again convicted. Thus, the authorities are trying to isolate the leaders of the protests, which have been going on in Belarus for almost three months.

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The authorities did the same with two more participants in the political strike – Pavel Puchenia and Yury Korzun. They were transported to Soligorsk from Liuban where they were jailed and re-convicted for another 15 days’ sentence.

Let us remind you that employees of JSC Belaruskali Siarhei Charkasau together with Yury Korzun and Pavel Puchenia had been arrested at a picnic in the public park in Soligorsk on 3rd of October.  The police and OMON officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs detained those peacefully walking around the city park.

The Belarusian Independent trade union is going to turn to the international trade union movement for support in the release of the trade union leader and members of the independent trade union.

Strike at Belaruskali: no one was left unaffected.

PROTEST

Lizaveta MERLIAK


While the whole world is watching with bated breath the confrontation between the people and Lukashenka unfolding in Belarus, the heroes of the working class, workers of Belaruskali, who have declared a political strike since August 17, inspire the workers of Belarus to protest at their workplaces.  Murals in Minsk are dedicated to them, people carry their portraits to protests on weekends;  their names are in the news, in reposts of telegram chats and channels.


Члены стачкома на Солигорской центральной площади.
Members of the strike committee in the Salihorsk central square.

Behind the names and deeds are people who are faced with a huge soulless repression machine every day.  In this article, we’ll cover each of them.  After all, no one was left unaffected.

Several days of grassroots democracy, rallies, meetings, the formation of a strike committee and the presentation of political demands by the workers of Belaruskali, was followed by a wave of repressions against the leaders of workers’ protests, and these repressions continue to this day.

Владимир Логинов и Дмитрий Куделевич,
Uladzimir Lohinau and Dzmitry Kudzialevich

Under pressure from the internal affairs bodies (ed. – police, KGB, GUBOPiK – Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption), members of the strike committee Dzmitry Kudzialevich, Alesya and Uladzimir Lohinau were forced to leave the Republic of Belarus at the beginning of the strike.


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Hleb Sandras, the strike committee press secretary, was forced to leave Belarus.  Continues active work from abroad.  Under pressure from the internal affairs bodies, he was forced to transfer part of the strike fund to charity.  Regarding Hleb, the independent trade union received a notification from the employer that he would be fired “for absenteeism without sound reasons”.


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Members of the strike committee Pavel Puchenya and Aliaksandr Novik were sentenced to 10 days of arrest for participating in unauthorized mass events. Also, the Independent Trade Union of Miners received a notification from Belaruskali that these workers would be dismissed “for absenteeism without sound reasons”.

 


Nina_TAll members of the strike committee, without exception, are threatened with criminal liability, dismissal, and recently, parents are threatened with deprivation of parental rights and removal of minor children from the family.  Nina Tulaeva and Pavel Puchenya received such a threat.


SSJH-1Siarhei Shupilau lost his home due to his activities in the strike committee.  He lived in the hostel “Belaruskali”.


Пётр Печкуров
Piotr Pechkurou

Piotr Pechkurou and Dzianis Tarasevich served a 7-day sentence for participating in unauthorized mass events.


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Siarhei Charkasau and Raman Liavonchyk spent 15 days behind bars for participating in unauthorized mass events.  Raman’s brother, Mikalaj, also an employee of Belaruskali, was summoned to the prosecutor’s office, searched at home, and office equipment was seized.


Pavel Razumouski was beaten during his arrest, and because of his injuries, he could not serve the entire term of his sentence, 15 days, but was sent to a medical institution.  This did not shorten Pavel’s sentence, but postponed his sentence.


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Two members of the strike committee are now behind bars.
From September 30, Siarhei Kazelka is serving a term of 15 days for participating in unauthorized events on September 13, 20 and 27. At his trial, 5 employees of the internal affairs bodies acted as witnesses.

 


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Anatol Bokun, co-chairperson of the Belaruskali strike committee, is currently serving a 25-day sentence “for disobeying police officers and participating in an unauthorized mass event”.  It sounds very dry.  And this is how Anatol received his punishment.

Олег Кудёлка
Aleh Kudziolka

Anatol was in a group of twenty-two people who arrived at 4 Mine of “Belaruskali” to support Aleh Kudziolka, a mining foreman who joined the strike, who refused to leave the mine after a night shift in protest against the repression of the strike committee representatives.  Soon after Aleh Kudziolka was forcibly taken to the surface and taken to a psycho-neurological dispensary for examination, the police detained his entire support group.

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Only Anatol was punished for participating in a solidarity picket.  By the way, with each new arrest, Anatol’s punishment increases.  At first it was a fine.  Then the administrative arrest.  In total, since the beginning of the strike, Anatol has been deprived of 40 days of his freedom.  Let us recall that from August 30 to September 16, he was already serving his sentence, and the conditions of detention in the cell were dangerous for his health: with serious problems that Anatol has with his lungs, he was forced to stand on the concrete floor without shoes.  It was in the same cell with the former chairperson of the Belarusian Independent trade union Mikalaj Zimin.  While he was serving his sentence, Belaruskali sent him a notice that he had been fired.


JK-1Yury Korzun, who joined the strike on September 10, when he refused to go to the surface and chained himself to mining equipment, believes that it was the workers (more than 6400 workers of Belaruskali) who declared the strike, signed the demands of the strike committee, and demanded an immediate end to violence against civilians  are heroes.  And the employer has no right to punish them, to deprive them of bonuses, to deprive them of jobs, to deprive them of social guarantees for this.

This is what is happening now in Belaruskali: more than 100 workers have been deprived of a 55% bonus for not fulfilling the production plans of the enterprise due to the fact that the workers work exclusively in compliance with labour protection and safety rules (author’s note  – the so-called work to rule strike).

21 who joined the strike were fired.

Those workers who were absent from the workplace on August 19 and 20, when the strike was announced, were all punished.  One worker has been fired, this is Uladzimir Tsimoshchanka.  At least 43 workers were deprived of all bonuses for a period of a year, payments to the day of the miner, and a reduction in vacation by the number of days of absence.

More and more people join the strike every day.

This is what is behind the picture from Belarus.  It’s not just weekend marches, flowers and white clothes.  This is a loss of work, income, the threat of losing family, home and health for the sake of an idea.

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British MPs call for solidarity with the Belarusian people

SOLIDARITY

John McDonnell MP, a leading socialist Member of Parliament and former Labour Shadow Chancellor has lodged an Early Day Motion in Parliament calling for “international solidarity with the people of Belarus in their struggle for freedom and democracy”. 

 

 

McDonnell has welcomed the demands of the trade union movement in Belarus who support the popular rebellion against the Lukashenka regime.

The Early Day Motion has also been supported by Jeremy Corbyn MP, former leader of the Labour Party.  Please call on your MP to sign EDM 850.

Political situation in Belarus

EDM #850
Tabled 07 September 2020
2019-21 Session

That this House notes that the elections in Belarus on 9 August were neither free nor fair, that millions of Belarusians have defied the regime of Alexander Lukashenko, condemns the violence and repression against peaceful protesters; further notes that the strikes and protests taking place across Belarus are an inspiration to workers and progressives across Europe and the world, welcomes the role of trade unions in the protests and extends our solidarity to them in the face of persecution and strike-breaking by the regime; rejects the idea that democratisation need be a move towards neo-liberal economic reforms, and welcomes the demands raised by the trade union movement to declare the presidential elections void, dismiss President Lukashenko, freedom and compensation for all political prisoners, end all proceedings against opponents of the regime, removal of Police officials and judges responsible for violence and repression, end the draconian system of fixed-term contracts affecting 90 per cent of workers in Belarus; and calls for international solidarity with the people of Belarus in their struggle for freedom and democracy, and opposes the introduction of repressive forces from outside Belarus.

John McDonnell MP