March 2, 2006, Washington, DC (moldova.org) --- According to a press release of the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC), the government of Belarus began a major crackdown on Thursday, March 2, of opposition forces in Belarus. Planned peaceful demonstrations in the capital Minsk have seen an overwhelming presence of military and security forces and the current situation has been described as very tense. In addition, the government is apparently interfering with lines of communication with the West, and cutting off access to websites such as Charter '97, which has reliably been relating news from independent sources in that country: www.charter97.org and the opposition Zubr website: www.zubr-belarus.com
Western reporters are also being reported as being detained.
Messaging from opposition sources is currently being rerouted. RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported that several thousand demonstrators in the central square in Minsk with opposition candidate Alexander Milinkevich were surrounded by police and security and is now being dispersed by riot police. Another opposition presidential candidate, Alexander Kozulin, has been reportedly beaten by police and arrested, along with about a dozen of his supporters (from Reuters). A new unconfirmed report says that Kozulin has been released.
Earlier unconfirmed sources reported that similar mass arrests were taking place. The Government has issued a declaration that all public gatherings are illegal.
Besides the capital Minsk, a heavy Belarusian military presence is also being felt in the cities of Homel and Vitebsk. These forces are reportedly coming in with their own telecommunications equipment, in order to take command of those points of access.
The Belarusian KGB is saying that this is a western-inspired coup attempt with troops from Ukraine and Georgia participating (mosnews.com).
Despite the efforts of the Belarus government to obscure what is going on, the world will be watching, the JBANC's communique says.