Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 38

The Minsk Region court yesterday sentenced Alyaksey Shidlousky, 19, and Vadzim Labkovich, 16, to eighteen months in prison each. Shidlousky is to serve his term at hard-labor. Labkovich’s sentence carries a two-year reprieve, meaning that he would have to serve the full sentence if pronounced guilty of any kind of offense during the two-year period. The two members of the Youth Front — a section of the opposition Popular Front — were found guilty of "malicious hooliganism," desecration of cultural monuments in their town of Stolbtsy, and offending President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and the state flag.

The "cultural monuments" are statues of Lenin and of Soviet Russia’s secret police founder Feliks Dzerzhinsky, on which the two youth had poured paint. They also scrawled "I don’t love the President" and "No to Moscow’s lackeys" graffiti, as well as the patriotic verse "Belarus my Home, Belarus my Temple;" and raised the banned national flag in place of the official, Soviet-type flag on the Stolbtsy district administration building.

Yesterday outside the court building in Minsk, the OMON arrested and manhandled a score of opposition supporters, including journalists, Helsinki Committee members and Youth Front supporters. The sentence defies a warning by the European Union which had just urged the release of the two youths and other steps to curb political misuse of justice. (Belapan, Russian agencies, February 24; see also Monitor, February 24)

Crimean Parliament Bows to Pressure.