After walking through the City Gate Towers and turning to the left, you end up at Niezaliežnasci (Independence) Square (Metro station Plošča Lienina).

After the presidential polls on December 19, 2010, around 40,000 people came to the House of the Government in this square to express protest against the vote rigging. Provocateurs called on the peaceful protesters to storm the state building but only some broke glass in the locked doors.

The incumbent president Alyaksandr Lukashenka was monitoring the protest action via CCTV cameras and eventually ordered his security apparatus to crack down on the demonstrators. Up to 700 people were heavily beaten and detained on that night. This unprecedented crackdown, known in Belarus as 'December 19th events', led to international sanctions and isolation of the Belarus authorities.

Fines for taking part in the protests against the falsification of presidential election results amounted to $300 and up.

Protesters were taken by police officers to courts to face charges of taking part in an authorized mass event. The softest punishment was a fine from $300 to $600.

Photo: Siarhei Hudzilin

Niezaliežnasci (Independence) Square