Belarus protesters arrested while marching against 'parasite' tax

By Daniel Uria  |  March 25, 2017 at 12:34 PM
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March 25 (UPI) -- Dozens of protesters in Belarus were arrested after marching against the country's "social parasite" tax on the unemployed.

Protesters shouted "fascists" at riot police who arrested dozens of people including Belsat TV and BBC Russian correspondent, Sergey Kozlovsky, and opposition figure Vladimir Nekliayev, who was detained while making his way to the rally to speak.

Demonstrators gathered in the capital city of Minsk on Saturday morning to oppose the Presidential Decree No. 3 "On the Prevention of Social Dependency," which taxes unemployed citizens and part time workers about $250.

President Alexander Lukashenko, who has led the country since 1994, suspended the tax for this year on March 9, but said it would not be abandoned.

Lukashenko said that people who worked fewer than 183 days a year would be exempt from the tax and those who paid it last year would be compensated after finding a job.

Organizers named the Saturday protest Freedom Day, in reference to the 99th anniversary of the proclamation of the country's brief period of independence for six months following World War I in 1918.

Additional protests in other cities outside the capital were scheduled for Sunday.

"Tomorrow's protests will be big, very big. People who attend tomorrow have a lot of courage and they are coming because they are fed up," former Belarusian Foreign Minister Andre Sanikov said. "The protest is not about the economic situation but about a dictatorship that has lasted 23 years."

More than 300 people have been arrested for protesting since the government began to crack down on demonstrations agains the tax and Lukashenko's 23-year rule over the country.

"There will be fear for protesting openly but it is done peacefully to demand changes," Sanikov said. "People are hoping for freedom from the dictatorship because the economy and quality of life in Belarus is very poor. I hope for a parliamentary re-election to end this problem."

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