Minsk: 'fasting', Metropolitan Venjamin's recipe for peace
by Vladimir Rozanskij

The newly appointed Orthodox metropolitan proposes a three-day fast, invoking the Mother of God and the Belarusian martyrs as witnesses to "restore order" to the country. The "popular" inauguration of Tikhanovskaja, with over 100 thousand demonstrators. The Omon, soldiers in riot gear, repress the demonstrators. The traffic police refuse to participate in the crackdowns.

Minsk (AsiaNews) - Venjamin (Tupelo), Orthodox Metropolitan of Minsk knows how to restore social peace to his country: thanks to the exercises of Orthodox asceticism. On 23 September, he launched an appeal, which was  loudly reported by all the official press organs. Addressing the faithful and the whole population, he said: "With full sense of responsibility, I affirm, aware of the importance of my words, that no one will be able to help us like God. I ask the Mother of God herself, and to all our Belarusian saints to be witnesses of my words. They teach us that evil can be overcome by good, thanks to the petition addressed to God”.

Venjamin's solemn statement (photo 2) was an attempt to prepare all Belarusians to fast for three days, from 25 to 27 September, in order to "restore order" to Belarus. From the context of the Metropolitan's words it can be deduced that by "order" he means respect for the rules of the socio-political life of the country, those observed for 26 years by President Aleksandr Lukashenko.

Expressing his fervent hopes that the prayers of the people will be heard by the Most High, Venjamin made it known that "if my words prove to be deceptive, my very life may end! But please listen to my appeal”.

While the metropolitan called for fasting, a large demonstration was held in Minsk on September 27 to celebrate the "popular inauguration" of Svetlana Tikhanovskaja, leader of the Belarusian opposition in exile in Lithuania, as opposed to the "secret" and stealthy one of Lukashenko last September 23. It was the eighth consecutive Sunday of mass protests, which continue to gather over 100,000 people.

This time too, hundreds of arrests were made, after a total blocking of internet access in the Belarusian capital. In the street there was a very strong wind, under a persistent rain, yet the processions managed to reach Independence Square by side streets, moving away from the police blocks and heading towards other central districts.

Protesters wore masks and placards with the face of Svetlana Tikhanovskaja (photo 1), and in support of the members of the Opposition Coordination Committee Maria Kolesnikova, Maksim Znak and others, arrested or deported. Against the self-inaugurated president, various slogans were chanted: "Lukashenko in the avtozak!", "Go away, you and your Omon!", "This is our country!" and “Don't watch TV, look out the window!”.

The demonstrations of the last few appear like an elaborate game of "cops and robbers": the police try to block the processions; these split up, giving the impression of dispersing, only to rejoin shortly afterwards in side streets, with perfect synchrony despite the blocking of internet connections.

The Omon garrison the city center in every way, with the result of spreading the protest actions even more. In the more peripheral districts there should be the blocks of the city police. Many of them refuse to participate in the repression. The vanguards of young people regulate the flow of demonstrators, moving quickly to indicate directions to larger groups, where there is no shortage of elderly people. Lukashenko's staunchest opponent, 73-year-old Nina Baginskaja, said she will continue to take to the streets "as long as her legs hold her".