Students forced to recall signatures given in support of opposition candidates
According to students, a stranger who introduces himself as a member of the election committee keeps threatening them with accommodation and university problems unless they recall their signatures. Mikalai Statkevich’s team has lodged a complaint to the CEC in response to it and is preparing to send an appeal to General Prosecutor's Office.
Baranavichy State University students say that a young man of about 28 years of age talked to them. He introduced himself as a member of Baranavichy election committee, named Pavel, but did not show his ID. He described the possible consequences of giving signatures in support of Lukashenka’s opponents straight out.
Student: "He asked me: did you give your signatures in support of those candidates? I said: I did. I gave my signatures to four of them. He said: "Do you know that they are opposition members?" I replied that I did and that we seemed to live in a democratic country. And he said: "You live in a hostel and it is cheaper than renting a flat, you are a fifth-year student and you will graduate soon. Aren’t you afraid of problems?"
Another Baranavichy State University student says that the same Pavel came to his room late in the evening. He said he was a member of some commission and of the BRYU. He had lists of signatures on him: either copies, or the original ones.
Student: "He took out a pile of lists and asked: "Did you affix your signature here?" I said: yes, I did. He said: "Do you know that they are opposition members? You see, you live in a hostel…" And I was surprised to find out how much he knew about me and about the problems I had had during the previous finals. He knew what exams I had failed and had resat. He simply told me: "Choose what you like: finals and an opportunity to continue you studies, so maybe you should better recall…" I even regretted I did not have a dictaphone, it was a shame that people were engaged in such things".
The same Pavel visited signature collectors too.
"Some 27-year-old man came up to me and asked: "Are you … (name here)?" I said it was me. "Do you collect signatures?" I said I did. He did not prefer a polite conversation and started threatening me right away. "Aren’t you afraid of consequences?" I said: "What consequences?" He replied: "You should better stop in order to avoid consequences", - said a member of Mikalai Statkevich’s initiative group.
There is only one Pavel in the election committee – Pavel Papko representing the work collective of Baranavichy State University. He is the head of the youth character building department of the university. His photo can be found on the educational institution’s website.
According to the head of Mikalai Statkevich’s initiative group Yaraslau Hryshchenya, university students have confirmed that the person in the photo visited them in hostels.
ERB contacted the university department headed by Pavel Papko. They informed that he was out visiting the hostels and gave us his cell phone number.
Pavel Papko: It’s the first time I hear it. I am not authorized to speak about any consequences. What do you mean by “opposition”?.. Just tell me who exactly complained about it and then we will discuss it in detail.
ERB: Students do not want to make their names public.
Pavel Papko: You are speaking about students in general. I bet you that I am sure that my students are intelligent adults who cannot disseminate slander. You must have talked to some immature students and I do not even know how to comment on it.
According to Pavel Papko, his responsibility is monitoring the hostels and students’ accommodation there while mentors are charged with character building.
Mikalai Statkevich’s initiative group has lodged a complaint based on the conversations with students who gave their signatures in support of opposition candidates to the Central Election Commission. The group is also planning to send a complaint the General Prosecutor's Office on November 8.
6.5 thousand signatures including a thousand students’ signatures were collected in support of Mikalai Statkevich in Baranavichy. However, some students have already recalled their signatures due to the pressure. Moreover, the politician says that a verbal denial is enough to do it.
Mikalai Statkevich: "If a certain percentage of students recall their signatures, they will nullify all the signatures collected in Baranavichy".
Members of Baranavichy City Executive Committee and of the City Council chose members of the city election committee without any open discussion or voting for candidates on September 28. It consists of representatives of the Communist Party of Belarus, "White Russia", Belarusian Women’s Union, BRYU and others.
Representatives of an opposition party "Fair World" and of the Belarusian Language Society were not included in the committee.