Student community is unhappy with authorities’ actions, but their protest potential is low
Last week, for the first time in ten years, an unauthorized march of students was held in Minsk at the Belarusian State University (BSU) administration. The students were protesting against the introduction of fees for re-examination and tests at the BSU. About 90 students from different Belarusian universities gathered for the march, which had not been clamped down by the power bodies. It should be noted that other higher educational institutions have long practiced charging for the re-examination and tests without consulting with students, who have not been objecting these charges. That said, students are rather willing to sign online petitions to the authorities and write comments on social networks, including other safe ways of expressing their dissatisfaction with the university administration’s decisions. Student protest actions are unlikely to attract more participants and grow into political demands.
Following crackdown and arrests of participants in the spring protests, the authorities resumed arrests as punishment for participating in street protests in addition to fines, which for some time were the only punishment for political activity. On September 22nd, 2017, the riot police detained the Belarusian National Congress leader Nikolai Statkevich, the opposition politician was placed in detention centre on Akrestin street. On the same day, after serving seven days of arrest, another BNC leader, Vladimir Neklyaev, was released. He was sentenced for organising a street protest on September 8th against the West-2017 exercises. Other participants in the protest have been fined too. The authorities are likely to continue to use fines and arrests against political activists to punish for their protest activity.