Updated at 22:06,23-05-2018

Belarus: Nobel laureate wades into national emblem row


The Belarusian winner of this year's Nobel Prize for literature, Svetlana Alexievich, is backing a group of four army cadets in her native country at the centre of a row over the country's national emblem.

Writer and journalist Alexievich has called the cadets "stars, shining in the darkness, real Belarusian officers of whom the country can be proud", for taking part in a social media campaign to promote the Pahonia - an image of a knight on horseback that served as the national symbol until 1995, the opposition Nasha Niva newspaper reports.

One of teenagers was expelled from his military boarding school near the city of Baranovichi after a photo of the group, posing Superman-style to reveal the Pahonia under their tunics, went viral. He posted the image online two days before the country's presidential election.

Pro-Russian President Alexander Lukashenko replaced the Pahonia with a Soviet-style crest after a controversial referendum 20 years ago. While the symbol isn't banned, the authorities see it as a sign of opposition to the president's authoritarian rule, and discourage its display.

The cadet's dismissal prompted social media uproar focused around the hashtag #pahoniapobach, meaning "The Pahonia is Near", and users expressed solidarity by posting their own shirt-bursting images. An online petition was sent to the ministry of education to spare the cadets, and the campaign peaked with Alexievich's intervention. The ministry has now promised that nothing will happen to any of the teenagers, the Belta state news agency says, and the expelled cadet will reportedly be returning to school.

But the campaign may not yet be over, as another cadet in the city of Brest has now posted his own Pahonia picture on Instagram, tagging it: "Brest greets Baranovichi".

Belarus: Nobel laureate wades into national emblem row

The Pahonia, here on the left, is most often seen during opposition demonstrations