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Belarusian Activist Serving Labor Sentence Starts Hunger Strike

  • RFE/RL's Belarus Service

KUPLIN, Belarus -- A Belarusian civil rights activist who is serving an 18-month mandatory labor sentence at a state-owned industrial facility says he is on a hunger strike.

Yury Rubtsou told RFE/RL that he started the hunger strike on January 22 to protest salary levels in Belarus, where the government recently announced that the average monthly salary is the equivalent of $600.

Rubtsou contested that figure, saying he believes the actual average is substantially lower.

Rubtsou is also calling for President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's government to release all "political prisoners" and to give its opponents at least one hour a day of airtime on the national television channel.

Rubtsou received the manual labor sentence last April for insulting a judge at hearing during which he was jailed for 25 days after attending an unsanctioned protest in a T-shirt that said, "Lukashenka, Go Away!"

Lukashenka has tolerated little dissent or political opposition in more than 20 years as president.