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Belarusians Protesting Restaurant At Stalin-Era Execution Site Detained, Jailed


Protesters rally against building of a restaurant near Kurapaty memorial to the victims of Stalinist repressions on June 25.

MINSK -- Several activists protesting against the opening of a restaurant at a site near Minsk where thousands of people were executed by the Soviet secret police were detained over the weekend, and some of them were jailed.

Opposition activists Paval Sevyarynets and Volha Mikalaychyk were sentenced to 10 days in jail each on June 30. Sevyarynets is co-chairman of the opposition Christian Democratic Party's founding committee.

An activist with the European Belarus movement, Leanid Kulakou, told RFE/RL that two other government opponents, Dzyanis Urbanovich and Barys Anikeyev, were detained the same day and could face court hearings soon.

On July 1, opposition activist Natallya Harachka was detained when she arrived at the controversial restaurant's compound. Her court hearing is also pending, Belarusian Social Democratic Party Deputy Chairman Alyaksey Sigayeu said.

Opposition activists have been protesting for more than a month against the opening of the restaurant at the Kurapaty preserve on the outskirts of Minsk, where at least 30,000 people were killed and buried by the Soviets under dictator Josef Stalin in the 1930s and 1940s.

In March 2017, Minsk city authorities had to suspend construction of a business center near the site after opposition activists rallied for weeks, saying that the project desecrated the memory of thousands of people who were victims of the Soviet state.

Authoritarian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's government tolerates little dissent and protests are frequently broken up.

Lukashenka, who has been president since 1994, won a fifth term in a 2015 election that was judged by Western monitors to be neither free nor fair.

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