Police broke up a march that members of Malady Front, a Czech-registered opposition youth group, attempted to stage in downtown Minsk on February 14.
Twenty-two people, including four legal minors, were arrested. Malady Front announced plans to hold its traditional St. Valentine’s Day march after the management of the Crowne Plaza Minsk hotel had withdrawn its agreement to host a ceremony at which the group wanted to present its "I Love Belarus" award to people who have made prominent contributions to the promotion of the Belarusian language and culture.
At around 6:00 p.m. several dozen opposition youths gathered on Liberty Square, intending to march to Independence Square.
Plainclothes policemen warned participants that they could face punishment for the unauthorized demonstration and when Malady Front Deputy Chairman Ivan Shyla presented the grain-shaped award to opposition activist Mikhail Pashkevich they started to grab demonstrators. Several youths who tried to unfold a sign reading "I Love Belarus" were apprehended. A police bus drove up and many youths were shoved in it. Among those arrested was renowned artist Ales Pushkin.
The participants were brought to the Tsentralny district police department where from they were freed without charges after a while.
Mr. Pashkevich, leader of the United Civic Party`s youth organization called Young Democrats, told BelaPAN that the police had beaten Mikalay Dzemidzenka, as well as Ival Shyla and Stanislaw Stesik who are minors. Tatsyana Shaputska and Mr. Pashkevich were also beaten. "Riot police seized the I Love Belarus award from me in the bus on our way to the police department," Mr. Pashkevich said. "They didn`t give it me back. In the police department, I was taken to a separate room for what they called a conversation. They smashed my glasses."
Earlier in the day, police apprehended four opposition youths who were distributing St. Valentine`s Day cards colored white and red, the colors of Belarus` historically national flag, at the Yakub Kolas subway station. Dzyanis Kobrusew, Andrey Krechka, Pavel Chubuk and Anton Koypysh were taken to a police station. They were freed without charges.