Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 40

More than a thousand retail traders staged a rally in central Minsk yesterday to protest against the sudden doubling of rental fees for market booths. Protest leaders made public an appeal to Minsk’s thousands of private retailers to form a trade union in defense of their rights. The doubling of the market tax follows the re-nationalization of Minsk’s largest food market and clearly aims to thwart private commerce. At the same time, the authorities obliquely admitted yesterday that part of the proceeds from the tax increase would be turned over to the "Liberal-Democratic party," whose security squads have been hired to protect and "clean up the market." (Interfax, February 25) The party, whose name appears inspired by that of Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s party in Russia, advocates authoritarian government and a pro-Moscow and pan-Slavic orientation.

Yesterday’s rally continued the recent series of mass protests in Minsk against the policies of President Aleksandr Lukashenko. Just in the last ten days the city center has been the scene of a youth demonstration, a women’s march of empty pots, picket actions by independent trade unionists, and a first mass rally of private food traders. Social grievances merged with political demands during these actions.

Ukrainian Political Update.