Belarus' 73-Year-Old Protest Icon Among Hundreds of Women Detained in Minsk

Great-grandmother Nina Baginskaya has become a key figure within the movement for taking on riot police and removing their balaclavas.
September 21, 2020, 2:13pm
Belarus' 73-Year-Old Protest Icon Among Hundreds of Women Detained in Minsk
Opposition activist Nina Baginskaya takes part in a women's rally in Belarus last month. Photo: Natalia Fedosenko/TASS/Alamy Live News

The great-grandmother who has taken on riot police and become an icon of Belarus' mass protest movement was detained at the weekend. 

Nina Baginskaya, 73, was arrested alongside hundreds of other women who marched in Minsk to demand the resignation of President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the Eastern European country for 26 years.  

Two thousand people, the majority of which were women, took part in the protest on Saturday, chanting "only cowards beat women" as they were encircled by security forces in balaclavas. 

According to AFP news agency, police detained so many protesters that they ran out of room in their vans and had to free some of the women. Local human rights group Viasna reported that more than 300 women were detained.

An officer is shown snatching the 73-year-old's white and red flag – a banned anti-Lukashenko symbol in Belarus – and pushing her into a police van, in a video shared on social media. She was reportedly taken to a police station before being released shortly afterwards.

Baginskaya has taken part in protests throughout Belarus since 1988, demonstrating on issues such as the demolition of a memorial site for victims of Soviet-era mass executions and the arrest of political prisoners. She has become an icon of the anti-Lukashenko movement for repeatedly confronting riot police, resisting arrest and removing masked officers' balaclavas to reveal their identity. 

Baginskaya is regularly met with chants of “Nina, Nina” at demonstrations, with strangers often thanking the great-grandmother for her contribution to the movement. 

Yesterday, mass protests took place in the capital of Belarus for the sixth Sunday in a row, demonstrating what was widely considered a rigged election. Lukashenko’s security forces have waged a harsh crackdown on protesters in the wake of August's contested election, employing water cannons and carrying out mass arrests. 

Last week, Lukashenko won critical support from Russian President Vladimir Putin by securing political backing and a $1.5 billion loan to survive wide scale protests, which show no sign of slowing down.