Belarus drivers protest petrol smuggling rules | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 13.06.2011
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Belarus drivers protest petrol smuggling rules

Three hundred drivers have blocked a border crossing between Belarus and Poland in protest against new rules curbing petrol smuggling. At least 14 people were arrested, said police.

Flyer for a petrol protest

Price and control of petrol is a hot topic in Belarus

Belarusian police on Monday arrested at least 14 people who took part in a motorists' protest against new petrol smuggling rules by
blocking an international highway.

Motorists blocked the major highway on Sunday, in protest against new laws limiting the amount of petrol they are allowed to take outside the country.

An estimated 300 Belarusian motorists blocked the road between Poland and Belarus, bringing traffic to a halt. Video footage on the website YouTube showed protestors linking arms, chanting slogans and singing patriotic songs.

Riot police were called to the scene and a tear gas canister was thrown during a confrontation with a police officer.

Public protests are strictly limited in Belarus, and at least 14 people were detained for taking part in the "illegal demonstration," said the Interior Ministry in a statement.

Filling up at a Belarus gas station

Gas is much cheaper in Belarus than in neighboring Poland

If convicted of interfering with the operations of a border post, the suspects would be fined and banned from leaving Belarusian territory, said Aleksandr Tyshchenko, a spokesman for the border troops.

New petrol rules

On Sunday the government set the maximum amount of petrol with which a motorist might leave the country, without paying export duty, at the vehicle's full fuel tank plus a 10-liter carrying can.

Petrol in Belarus is some 30 percent cheaper than in neighboring Poland and thousands of people in western Belarus earn a living by buying petrol and reselling it in Poland or the Baltic region.

The Belarusian economy has been hit by rising inflation and falling production, prompting President Alexander Lukashenko to announce austerity measures. Flour, cement, household appliances, detergent, meat, cigarettes, dairy products and cereals have also been targeted by the new export laws. In addition, the law limits cross-border trips to one trip per five days.

Belarus was roundly criticized for the brutal crackdown on protesters following December's presidential election. More than 700 people were arrested in the wake of protests against Lukashenko's re-election, with the protest "leaders" receiving sentences of three to five years in prison.

Author: Catherine Bolsover (dpa, AFP)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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