A photo of the plaza at the center of Mogilev, Belarus. Photo by IYY, via Wikimedia Commons.

An elderly woman in Belarus speaks her mind and pays for it. From Mogilev.Online.

Hundreds of Belarusians have been convicted of “insulting” President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the last year. Naviny, a leading Belarusian media outlet, recently analyzed these defamation sentences and spotted a clear pattern: most of the accused get at least one year of jail or house arrest. Fines, such as that described below, are actually rare in cases like these, and Mogilev.Online reports that this is the first time in the past year that a criminal case concerning defamation of the president ended with a fine rather than a harsher sentence.

An 81-year-old woman in Mogilev [a city in eastern Belarus] was put on trial for “insulting” President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

The trial was held after the head of Mogilev’s municipal services reported a TikTok video to the police, according to local human rights activists.

The woman, 81-year-old Ala Niaumoieva, had an argument with local garbage collectors.

They recorded a video and posted it on TikTok [the original TikTok video was later deleted, but can be seen on YouTube where it has over 250,000 views]. In mid-August, the court declared Lukashenka a victim and judge Zhanna Pushkina ordered Niaumoieva to pay the minimum fine for the offense, 890 rubles ($355).

The story started in April, when the old woman was taking out the trash. She met workers of the garbage collection service who started asking “inconvenient” questions, recording the woman on camera. 

Niaumoieva said in court that she had been provoked. She admitted using profane language about Lukashenka and that she had failed to control her emotions. According to her, she had earlier sent many complaints about the garbage collection service, including to the presidential office, to receive only formal, boilerplate replies.

When he watched the TikTok video, Mikhail Haluskou, head of Mogilev’s municipal services, sent it to Natalia Khaletskaya, the current deputy head of the administration. She reported it to the police.

This article was originally published on Mogilev.Online, the largest independent newsroom in Mogilev.Transitions has done some editing to fit our style. Reprinted with permission. Translated and published in partnership with Free Press for Eastern Europe. To support the embattled Belarusian press, visit this link