Updated at 16:11,02-12-2016

United Civic Party leader barred from laying flowers at World War II memorial

Officers of the Presidential Security Service prevented Anatol Lyabedzka, chairman of the opposition United Civic Party (UCP), from laying flowers at the World War II obelisk in Minsk’s downtown Victory Square on May 9, the 64th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in the 1941-45 Great Patriotic War, which is celebrated in Belarus as Victory Day.

Mr. Lyabedzka and five members of the UCP’s youth wing arrived at the square at noon, shortly before a wreath-laying ceremony featuring Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

"When we attempted to pass through a cordon of police officers and plainclothesmen blocking access to the scene, we were taken aside and put into a tight circle", Mr. Lyabedzka told BelaPAN. "Plainclothesmen who said they were officers of the Presidential Security Service told us that our presence was unwelcome".

"I never thought that I would live to see something like that", Mr. Lyabedzka commented. "My grandfather and two uncles died in the war. And now it turns out that I’m unwelcome to honor their memory".

Syarhey Kalyakin, leader of the opposition Belarusian Party of Communists, and other prominent members of the party did not encounter any obstacles on the part of police when they arrived to lay flowers after the wreath-laying ceremony in which the head of state took part.

Mr. Kalyakin said it was outrageous that the UCP leader had been barred from the square. "Victory Day is not a time for dividing citizens into good and bad, right and wrong", he told BelaPAN.

According to Mr. Lyabedzka, after they were turned away from Victory Square, they laid flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Military Cemetery and were followed all the time by plainclothesmen.