Updated at 19:45,21-02-2018

Belarus one-woman picket would 'distract drivers'


The council of the Belarussian capital Minsk won't let a woman protest alone outside the Russian embassy in case she "damages the lawn or distracts drivers", it seems.

Tatstsyana Hrachanikava, a veteran of the opposition Movement for Freedom, asked to stage her peaceful one-person picket on Thursday and Friday, but deputy mayor Ihar Karpenka replied that she constitutes a "mass event that might harm the environment and green spaces, obstruct pedestrians and traffic, and distract drivers from the road", the Movement for Freedom website reports. Mr Karpenka also complains that Ms Hrachanikava did not outline "specific steps to maintain public order and safety during the mass event".

Artsyom Lyava, a leading figure in the Movement, is impressed by the "imaginative leaps officials are making to come up with such absurdities". They turned down applications from him to picket the embassy earlier in September. "If a one-person protest can create such serious obstruction, we won't be able to walk around or even stand still next," he says. Mr Lyava calls on members of the public to join a 'picket carousel' by filing protest applications every day in the hope of shaming Minsk Council. "They don't just ban protests over Ukraine, but over any matter of public interest," he says.

The story is widely reported in the Belarussian independent media, but ignored on state outlets. The authoritarian government of President Alexander Lukashenko is wary of Ukraine's turbulent democracy, and tries to keep on the right side of Russia - its economic sponsor and sole European ally.