Belarusian authorities tighten grip on opposition during World Hockey Championships
In preparation for the World Hockey Championships scheduled to take place in Minsk on May 9th - 25th, 2014, new hotels and sport facilities have been built, and visa requirements have been lifted for international fans.
The Championship is an important image-making and political event for President Lukashenko who aims to improve the outer world’s perception of the Belarusian authorities, and boost his own ratings inside the country. The Belarusian authorities count on people’s diplomacy and on impressing foreigners with Minsk’s cleanliness and order, and good event organisation. Meanwhile, the authorities have no plans to relax their grip on the opposition, and continue to ignore EU and US demands. Ahead of the presidential ‘troika’ Summit, Belarusian security forces have detained a few opposition activists. Some will be held in custody until the Championship is over.
During searches of social and "green" activists and anarchists, law enforcement has seized computers, mobile phones and publications. The authorities have also exerted additional pressure on supporters of unauthorized street protests and independent lawyers, who represented defendants in the White Legion case. The security services have stepped up the persecution of opponents before the street protests announced by the opposition. Apparently, the Belarusian authorities aspire that participants in street protests would reduce in number and that the low interest of the population to socio-political agenda before the local election campaign would retain.