Chapter 1. Lyudmila Petrovna

Ludmila Petrovna (name changed for safety reasons) is an intelligent elderly woman. Despite the fact that she is in her seventies, her stamina, strength and vitality are envialbe the young. She has a sharp mind, an excellent memory, and a great desire to see free Belarus and a just punishment for the oppressors and criminals who destroyed and continue to destroy the best representatives of the nation. Back in the early 90s she was a member of the opposition and fought for freedom and independence of Belarus. Thirty years of struggle.

We all remember the inspiring actions of pensioners in the fall of 2020: the most courageous, intelligent and most fearless. They were flooded with tear gas, pushed, imprisoned for a day. Lyudmila participated in these actions, and on Sundays, she had enough time and energy for everything. There was a hope that now, finally, the Belarusians would defend their freedom, the dream of their life would come true. She would be able to see another free Belarus under a free white-red-white flag. It was very painful to see her despair when peaceful protests were strangled.

At one of the peaceful actions, the guys, inspired by their acquaintance with the smart, intelligent and active Lyudmila Petrovna, presented her with a white-red-white flag. In the spring of 2020, she hung it on the loggia of her apartment on the seventh floor of an ordinary Minsk high-rise building. But the flag did not hang for long. A couple of days later, police came to Lyudmila's apartment and said that unregistered symbols were seen on her balcony. They went to the loggia but did not find the flag. The policeman showed the pensioner a photograph of her supposedly window (on the 7th floor) and asked if it was her balcony. Lyudmila quite rightly noted that the place where they are now is her balcony and there is no flag on it, and she cannot recognize her balcony from a photo from his phone.

The pensioner was asked to go down into the car to draw up a protocol. Lyudmila Petrovna refused, as there were no grounds for this. However, about a week later, she received a subpoena. At the hearing, she did not deny it, she did not hide her views, she admitted that she had a flag and she washed and dried it on the balcony, and then put it in the closet. She did not have the goals of publicly expressing her socio-political interests by placing a flag.

The court found the pensioner's arguments unconvincing and found her guilty of unauthorized picketing (paragraph 1 of Article 24.23.). According to the Law on Mass Events, picketing is a public expression by a citizen or a group of citizens of socio-political, group, personal and other interests or protest (without a procession), including through a hunger strike, on any problems with or without the use of posters, banners and other means. Picketing is equated with the joint mass presence of citizens in a predetermined public place (including in the open air) at a set time to commit a predetermined act, organized (including through the global computer network Internet or other information networks) for the public expression of their public political interests or protest. It is impossible to obtain permission to hold an event on the balcony, since this is not a public place, but the private property of a citizen.

Lyudmila Petrovna was sentenced to a fine of 50 base rates (1,450 Belarusian rubles). For a pensioner receiving a pension of 600 rubles, the amount is huge. You need to eat, pay utility bills, medicines. Lyudmila told the judge about all this, but the assistant quietly explained to her that this was the minimum. Sanction of part 1 of article 24.23. provides for liability in the form of a fine of up to 100 base rates. There is no minimum size. I don't think the assistant deceived the pensioner. For Minsk, this is really an unspoken minimum.

Lyudmila did not appeal against the court ruling. She decided to save her health and nerves. She wrote an application for the payment in installment. The same judge considered her application and denied the installment plan. She said that Lyudmila has an apartment, and her son can help her, without specifying whether her son helps Lyudmila at all and whether he has a source of income.

Ludmila paid the fine. The judge is on the EU sanctions lists. But what kind of country we are leaving in, where pensioners are fined huge sums for having their own views which are different from the state ideology. Where pensioners are flooded with tear gas and put in inhumane conditions for 24 hours for going out in the street to express their views peacefully?! People who have worked all their lives and paid taxes are getting by on a meager pension. They deserve a different life and a different attitude. The worst thing for Lyudmila and other participants of the marches of pensioners is not to see their victory. While we all remain silent, they are slowly passing away...

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