'A simple act of solidarity can make a difference' - Residents demonstrate against Belarus Government

Belarus protest

The demonstration used a variant of the 1991–1995 flag of Belarus - which is used by pro-democracy protestors - Credit: Michal Siewniak

A demonstration against the Belarus government and in support of Belarusian protestors took place in Welwyn Garden City last week.

On May 23 a plane flying from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania, was diverted to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, under the premise there was a bomb threat on the plane.

When the plane landed journalist Roman Protasevich, who opposes the Belarus regime, was arrested.

Protasevich has since appeared in an interview where he confessed  to attempting to topple the president - but his family say he was forced to do so.

Following the incident transport secretary and Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps asked that UK airlines avoid Belarusian airspace after the incident, while Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary described the incident as "A case of state-sponsored hijacking".

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Former borough councillor Michal Siewniak organised a demonstration on June 2, as he believes "even the smallest act of solidarity is important".

Michal, who comes from Poland, said: "As someone who comes originally from Eastern Europe I'm interested in the political and democratic countries behind the so called 'iron curtain'."

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He believes most of the countries there are doing well, with the exception of Belarus - who Michal thinks have 'stagnated' or even gone backwards.

In attendance at the demonstration was a fellow parent, Natasha, who comes from Belarus herself.

When Michal spoke to her, he said he could see she was "stressed about it", and added: "She can't really visit family. She's afraid to travel because she might not be able to come back. People are being imprisoned for all sorts of things - as young as 14 or 15.

"I felt strongly that even though we are miles away a simple act of solidarity can make a difference.

"If it wasn't for the plane to be hijacked - which was simply an act of terrorism - a lot of people probably wouldn't even know where Belarus is."

He added: "I have a daughter who is going to be 15 next year, there are kids who are as young as her in prisons in Belarus as we speak only because they participated peacefully in a demonstration against the president."

"This most recent series of painful events is also an important reminder. We all must be grateful for what we have.

"We really have to cherish we actually can vote, freely demonstrate and express our views and opinions. We far too often take it for granted."

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