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23 October 2020, 19:04

Prime minister explains why major pro-government rally in Minsk has been cancelled

Roman Golovchenko. An archive photo
Roman Golovchenko. An archive photo

MINSK, 23 October (BelTA) – Prime Minister of Belarus Roman Golovchenko has talked to reporters about why a large-scale rally in Minsk has been cancelled, BelTA has learned.

According to Roman Golovchenko, public organizations, enterprises, and ordinary citizens have been speaking in favor of arranging a rally, a speech, some mass action in support of the government's policy for quite some time. “People resented how certain mass media interpret the situation around the so-called protest movement,” he said.

In his words, this massive wave of initiatives originated at the grassroots level. Up to some point it manifested as street actions arranged by veteran organizations and public organizations in Nezavisimosti Square. “But people wanted a much bigger action. This is why a pool of public organizations came forward with the initiative of organizing such a massive event in Minsk,” he noted.

The prime minister said that the organizers initially expected about 50,000 people to turn up for the rally. The event was supposed to take place in one location. But virtually one day later the expected number of participants rose to 100,000 people. The number of willing participants started snowballing out of control once the organizers officially stated the rally would be held. A lot of people in the regions were eager to participate in the rally. They were busy forming pools and some collectives and renting buses. “Recognizing this dynamics, we came to realize that some 200,000-250,000 people may turn up for the rally in Minsk. And the number did not include those who could come without stating their intentions in advance,” Roman Golovchenko said.

Roman Golovchenko noted that the organizers started thinking about how this many people could be transported from the regions to the capital city since more than half of the intended participants live in the regions. “We analyzed all the possibilities. In order to transport that many people, we would have to suspend regular railway service. It would have inconvenienced other passengers. On top of that we would need at least 1,500 large buses in addition to small ones in order to bring all the people. The city has never seen anything like that. It would have caused a total transport collapse,” he stated.

“Even if 200,000-250,000 people turned up for the rally – although I think the number could go all the way to 300,000 – this number of people would have occupied all the space between Pobedy Square and Nezavisimosti Square, including all the adjoining streets. And people would have been packed rather tightly. It would be very difficult if not impossible to enable proper security in these conditions,” Roman Golovchenko said.

The prime minister stressed that there are certain norms for arranging such events and there are risks relating to the participation of that many people. “We can see now that radicals are emerging in ranks of the so-called protesters. Recent events in certain cities confirm it. There is no guarantee that some sick people would not try to take actions that would result in a panic. With this number of people and with this density of the crowd there could be various consequences. This is why it was decided to ask people to stay home. We should also be mindful of the COVID-19 situation. We have to keep people safe. It would be an additional risk factor in these conditions.”

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