On April 2-4, the Days of Belarus, organized by the Östgruppen, a Swedish human rights organization, were held in Stockholm. The REP Trade Union was represented by Zinaida Mikhnyuk, the acting chair of the trade union.
"The Östgruppen has been holding events dedicated to Belarus for several years in a row. It was pleasant for me to know that quite a lot of ordinary people in Sweden are interested in the situation with human rights, workers' problems, ecology and culture of Belarus. Besides, many of the participants of the Days of Belarus are immigrants from the CIS countries, who also want to keep in touch with their homelands."
Apart from Ms Mikhnyuk, this year's Belarusian delegation to Sweden included Valentin Stefanovich, a human rights defender from the "Viasna" HRC; eco-activists, Irina Sukhiy (Ecodom) and Alyona Maslyukova; Andrei Khadanovich, a former head of the Belarusian PEN Centre; and Nadezhda Kondrusevich, a translator of children's books.
"Martin Ugla, the head of the Östgruppen, has noted that he had not been a union member for a single day, but if he had to join one, he would have joined the REP," Zinaida Mikhnyuk continues. "He said that he was following our activities; and interest in Belarus amid the Swedish society has not decreased. The European Union's soft approach to Lukashenko's dictatorial policies is of great concern among Swedes. Mr Ugla is amazed by the courage of Belarusian activists, who are so often repressed for their activities."
Zinaida Mikhnyuk and the head of the Östgruppen Swedish human rights organization Martin Ugla
"I was asked a lot of questions about the living standards in Belarus. I honestly said that instead of the promised 500 US dollars per month, most people have to survive for just a third of that. Special attention was given to the 'parasite' ordinance. It's just crazy for the Swedish society that people pay to the state because they can't find jobs."
"At one of the meetings, an official from the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that they were monitoring the situation around the persecution of the REP Trade Union and the so-called 'trade union case'. He confirmed that they treat the case as an obviously politically motivated one – the way chosen by authorities to crack down the independent trade union movement. They have also reconfirmed their solidarity support to independent trade unions in Belarus, and wished us success in our struggle for the legitimate rights of working people," Zinaida Mikhnyuk has concluded.