Belarus: potash workers strike to support victims of police violence

This statement by striking workers at Belaruskali, a giant potash fertiliser production complex, has been released today by the Belarusian Independent Trade Union. The Russian original is here. Belaruskali, based at Salihorsk, 120 kilometres south of Minsk, is one of the largest producers of potash fertilisers in the world, employing about 12,000 workers. Each of its four production units consists of one or two potash ore mines, and a processing unit.

This morning at Belaruskali there were meetings of all production units with management, who were informed that an indefinite strike is to begin. Strike committees have been formed at all production units. They are formulating demands to the employer and guarantees of safety for the strikers and their families. Later on, around two p.m., these demands will be presented to Belaruskali management. At present, production has not been stopped. Workers are conserving equipment and preparing for cessation of operations, so as not to damage the enterprise or its employees.

The strike is expected to start at midnight on 18 August. From eight a.m., the production process will be stopped.

The strikers’ demands:

What was done to the peaceful Belarusian people on 9-11 August 2020 showed the true face of the Belarusian authorities, and the real attitude of the power of the wealthy towards citizens. Hundreds of men and women of all ages, including young boys and girls,

A meeting at Belaruskali this morning

became the helpless hostages of monsters in uniform, and were subjected to unprecedented torture, humiliation and the most vicious beatings. And this lawlessness was conducted with the approval, and the direct participation, of officers of the district department of internal affairs and judges of the Salihorsk district court.

No-one will forget what has happened; no-one will pardon your crimes. Thousands of people in Salihorsk, whole enterprises, have joined the national peaceful solidarity STRIKE. The people are against violence and brutality, against the falsification of election results, and against lawlessness and recklessness in our city.

The following demands by citizens are being expressed through peaceful mass actions in the city of Salihorsk:

1. Take measures to declare the results of the presidential election null and void. To this end we call on the Salihorsk Regional Electoral Commission to make public the real results of voting at every polling station, to send to the Central Electoral Commission an objection to the incorrect counting of votes, with supporting arguments. To the chairmen of the Electoral Commissions we say – find the courage to tell city residents what really happened in these elections; who laid down the line “from above”, and in what manner.

2. Prepare and send to the House of Representatives [the lower house of the Belarusian parliament] the collective demands of the people of Salihorsk, for the dismissal of the current president from his post, on account of the serious criminal offences against the Belarusian people that he has committed; his responsibility for the bestiality, committed on his authority, as referred to in Article 127 of the criminal code (genocide: action, taken with the aim of deliberately destroying wholly or partly any group, defined on the basis of criteria – in the present case, the criterion of political belief) and Article 128 (crimes against human security: illegal aspects of the imprisonment and detention of people, that give rise to their disappearance, torture and acts of brutality, carried out, again, in connection with the political convictions of the civilian population).

3. Free all those who were placed in detention centres and prisons on 9-11 August 2020 on account of their political beliefs, rehabilitate them and pay them compensation, including damages for all material losses such as: damage to, or destruction of, property, including the breaking of mobile telephones, watches, personal items contained in any bags they were carrying when arrested. Compensate each of them for moral damage.

4. Declare as null and void all regulations and instructions, issued and carried out on 9-11 August 2020, as illegal and illegitimate, and on that basis repeal them. In this regard, we note that the formulation of pleas, the collection of evidence – and the payment of fees – for appeals against the decisions of the courts of first instance is the duty not of the victims of the unbelievable, monstrous orgy of violence, but of the prosecutors, who should lodge a protest against each and every such court decision. When people’s bones were being broken, as the blows rained down on them one after another; when they were helpless, gripped by fear and terror; when they cried out, begged for mercy, said farewell to life and to their families – the system did nothing. It did not react. It is time for it to correct its bloodstained mistakes.

5. Dismiss the following people from duty, strip them of their rank and deprive them of the right to re-employment in the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus, and start criminal proceedings against them, under the articles of the criminal code mentioned previously: two senior officers of the Salihorsk department of internal affairs – A.A. Sharovara, and his monstrous inhuman shadow, S.I. Solovey.

This was the duo that, in their starched shirts, took charge of the arbitrary lawlessness and the horror that was let loose in Salihorsk on the day of the election and two days that followed. The brutality was practiced “behind closed doors” in the internal affairs buildings, and the police officers behaved no differently from the cruel OMON [riot police], and stood by when citizens needed protection. So how are these people going to react to complaints of wounding? Imagine telling them, down to the very centimetre, where you were detained. Formulating a complaint would take no less than an hour. But then these police officers are writing their own version of what happened – where, from the start, they will make the victims guilty, as though they themselves laid down and asked to be beaten with the OMON’s rubber batons.

The interview records of 9-11 August 2020 were done a bit too efficiently. They didn’t deal with the facts of the cases at all. With regard to this issue, the people of Salihorsk demand that the Salihorsk police, as a body, apologise to the population; they they cooperate in an investigation of all the allegations of criminal activity that are now flooding in; and that they do not permit baseless and brutal use of physical force in future.

6. Dismiss the judges of the Salihorsk district court, who by their rulings facilitated the arbitrary chaos of those days, and strip them of their rank.

Not one of them was brave enough – and in fact there were not even sufficient judges available – to dispense justice as it should be, according to the law. Not one of them assured those who appeared in administrative hearings of the right to be defended or the right to present evidence that they were not guilty. The whole city is full of security video cameras. It would have been enough to ask for the recordings, in order to throw out hundreds of allegations of illegal acts. Each one of these judges could have halted these administrative hearings due to lack of evidence against those arrested, due to the absence of any breach of the law by the accused, but none of them did so. The circumstances of the victims’ arrest were corrupt to an unheard-of degree, but not one single judge – despite it being crystal clear what was happening – was courageous enough to find in favour of one single one of the victims of lawlessness, or even to hand out minimum, rather than maximum, sentences.

The people of Salihorsk will insist on these demands until they are implemented. It is unthinkable that, in peacetime, a full-scaled armed attack can be carried out on the peaceful people of the city, and that we will just forgive and forget.

For torturing our children, for the blood that has been spilt, for the tears, for the hurt and desperation – across the whole country, and in this city in particular – those who are guilty must answer. At the same time, we call on citizens to be vigilant, to use only peaceful methods in the struggle with lawlessness, not to react to provocations, which are now more frequently being organised at the behest of the security forces.

To the victims of violence: although this is terribly little comfort to you, nevertheless we want you to know, that the city has risen for you and thanks to you!! Despite the fact that the issue of the elections, and the falsification of the results, remains on the agenda, the city of Salihorsk has risen not because of that, but because of you!! To free you from imprisonment, to return you to your families and loved ones – so that you now, that we have not abandoned you!! We wish all a speedy recovery and rehabilitation!!

Together we are powerful!

17 August 2020.

More on Belarus

■ Belarus: ‘without organisation, without struggle, the oppressive unfreedom will never disappear’ (14 August) 

■ The Belarusian Independent Trade Union

■ Belarusian workers support protesters, by Maxim Edwards on Global Voices – a first-class survey of actions

One Response to Belarus: potash workers strike to support victims of police violence

  1. Shudhanshu Shekhar Mishra says:

    Great work by you to put all the important informations regarding the subject in a single post. Hold on brother, more people will start reading you soon.

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