On 7 June Minsk drivers staged a three-hour protest action right in front of the Presidential Administration, demanding to lower petrol prices which were increased on 6 June by 30%. The next day, Lukashenko ordered petrol prices to be reduced by 15-20%.
The driver’s rally was well-organized, massive in scale, fun, and enjoyed the support of the passers-by. Moreover, it was supported by President Alexander Lukashenko, who recognized the validity of the claims of civic activists and told the government to reduce petrol prices.
It was the first large-scale and effective event since the beginning of the active phase of socio-economic instability in the country. It is important that the “old” opposition was not responsible for the event, which was organized by the “new generation” of public figures. The organizers of the fourth action “Stop: petrol” since the beginning of the year was a public organization “For Auto”.
Actions of the participants were coordinated via forums and social networks. Drivers were asked to tie white ribbons to the antennas of cars, put stickers on windows and gradually form a column that would block the main avenue of Minsk.
During the rally drivers were moving at the slowest possible speed or stopped, simulating car break-down: opened bonnets, put up warning signs, some were pushing their cars manually. Traffic police behaved carefully and tried to convince drivers to keep moving. Pedestrian observers were active: loudly applauded and strongly supported the drivers. When the rally was over one could find many small (10-20) ruble notes: the passers-by were throwing them under the cars’ wheels protesting against the depreciation of the Belarusian ruble.
Last week, Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei participated in the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Eastern Partnership and Visegrad Group initiative hosted by Warsaw. The Belarusian FM emphasized Belarus' interest in cooperation in the transport sector, which could be due to Belarus’ desire to export electricity surplus after Belarus finished construction of the nuclear power plant in Ostrovets. Minsk expressed concerns about Warsaw’s stance on the Belarusian NPP, as it refused to buy electricity from Belarus and supported Vilnius’ protest on this issue. Following accusations by the Belarusian leadership and the state media against western states, including Poland, of training "nationalist militants", Minsk did not agree on the visit of the European Parliament deputies from Lithuania and Germany to Belarus and to the NPP construction site near Ostrovets in particular. In addition, the Belarusian authorities have stepped up efforts to enforce education in Russian in Polish-language schools in Grodno and Vaukavysk. Should a rift in Belarusian-Polish relations persist, the Belarusian authorities are likely to step up the pressure on the Polish-speaking minority in Belarus.