Staunton, March 23 – Since Moscow and Minsk signed the agreement calling for the formation of a union state in 1996, pro-Russian groups in Belarus have marked the Day of the Unity of Belarus and Russia every year on April 2. But this year, if they do so, they will be acting without the official permission they had always received in the past.
Today, the Belarusian newspaper Nasha Niva reports that the Minsk City Executive Committee has rejected an application for a demonstration that organizers wanted to take place in front of the Museum of the Great Fatherland War on Victory Avenue (nn.by/?c=ar&i=227498; in Russian at by24.org/2019/03/23/no_integration_day/).
This is a striking change. Many times in the past, this demonstration attracted not only the usual pro-Russian, national Bolshevik groups but even members of the Belarusian government up to and including Alyaksandr Lukashenka himself who at one point even made it a day off for Belarusians so they could take part.
What the Russian side and especially the Russian embassy will do in response and how the day will be marked is far from clear. But in taking this action, Minsk has shown that it is more than ready to take important symbolic steps away from Russia given Moscow’s increasingly aggressive stance toward its western neighbor.
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