Updated at 16:11,02-12-2016

Five opposition candidates warned against staging post-election protest

The Prosecutor General's Office on December 9 issued official warnings to five opposition presidential candidates, warning them of the inadmissibility of participation in an unsanctioned post-election demonstration in Minsk's downtown Kastrychnitskaya Square on December 19.

The warnings were issued to Uladzimir Nyaklyayew, Andrey Sannikaw, Yaraslaw Ramanchuk, Vital Rymashewski and Mikalay Statkevich.

In their live television addresses, the candidates urged voters to gather in Kastrychnitskaya Square at 8 p.m. on December 19 to wait for the announcement of official and unofficial election results.

In a telephone conversation with Mr. Nyaklyayew on Thursday, a representative of the Prosecutor General's Office said that criminal proceedings would be instituted against him if he went ahead with his plans to stage a post-election demonstration, the candidate's campaign chief, Yuliya Rymashewskaya, told BelaPAN.

In an interview with BelaPAN, Mr. Nyaklyayew accused the government of resorting to threats of criminal prosecution and imprisonment to fight its opponents. "Our regime hasn't come up with anything new," he said. "There will be less and less show democracy as the election date draws near. Democracy is coming to an end and the usual stuff is beginning."

Mr. Statkevich got a similar call from the Prosecutor General's Office. "I replied that the real crime was the kidnapping and murder of the government's opponents, and that the constitution guarantees freedom of assembly," he said. "If the Prosecutor General's Office doesn't intend to abide by the constitution, we'll be the ones who enforce it."

According to Mr. Ramanchuk, he learned about the warning from Pavel Radzivonaw, a departmental head at the Prosecutor General's Office. "When he told me the news over the phone, I replied that the demonstration was part of my election campaign," Mr. Ramanchuk said. "This will be an entirely peaceful rally. We’ll come to hear the results that will be announced by Lidziya Yarmoshyna, head of the central election commission. In my opinion, we're doing nothing illegal. Such demonstrations are staged in all civilized countries."

On November 30, Messrs. Rymashewski and Statkevich received official warnings from the central election commission for holding an unsanctioned meeting with voters in Kastrychnitskaya Square. Prior to the event they were given warnings by the Prosecutor General's Office.

Messrs. Rymashewski and Statkevich and also Mr. Nyaklyayew, who has received one warning from the central election commission, may be disqualified from the presidential race if they get a second warning.