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IndustriALL denounces further escalation of repression against Belarus unions

19 May, 2022There seems to be no end to the repression of union leaders in Belarus, with new attacks against the independent and democratic union movement and civil society every day.

The latest report details how Zinaida Mikhniuk, political prisoner, activist and former chairperson of IndustriALL affiliate Radio and Electronics Industry Workers Union REP, has been condemned to two years’ imprisonment for "insulting Lukashenka”. The verdict is considered harsh compared to other cases for similar offences.

Zinaida Mikhniuk

Zinaida was detained on 25 March after her home and union office were searched. Zinaida was held in a pre-trial detention facility, where she also remained during the trial. At least 20 people, including her husband, tried to attend the hearing, but were all denied access.

The day before Zinaida’s trial, union leader Maxim Poznyakov was detained after accompanying his twin-daughters to kindergarten. Maxim Poznyakov is chair of IndustriALL affiliate Belarusian Independent Trade Union BITU, members of the Belarusian Congress of Independent Trade Unions. Maxim’s arrest is likely connected to him becoming acting BCDTU president after both BCDTU leaders were arrested.

Maxim Poznyakov

Both cases are part of the more than 20 union leaders arrested on in April. Maxim was the last chair of leading independent trade unions to be arrested. At this moment in time, all leaders of independent unions in Belarus have either been arrested and later released but prohibited to leave the country or disclose any information about their case, or considered offenders and remain in prison, like the president of the Belarusian Congress of Independent Trade Unions Alexander Yarashuk, and its vice-present Sergey Antusevich.

There are also reports that teachers and student members of the Free Trade Union of Belarus SPB, affiliated to BCDTU, are subject to mounting pressure from authorities to leave the "criminal" independent union and instead join the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus, partly controlled by Lukashenko.

IndustriALL condemns in the strongest terms the attacks against trade union leaders and activists. They must all be immediately released, and all charges should be immediately and irrevocably dropped.

As part of the Council of Global Unions, we denounce the repression in Belarus and demand the right to visit the jailed trade unionists and to send a solidarity delegation to Belarus.

Together with our sister global unions, IndustriALL has launched a LabourStart campaign against the biggest attack on trade unions in Europe and we call on everyone’s support.