OBSERVING THE ELECTIONS
Ill be brief as I dont have any time. I sat at the polling station observing all day. Yesterday on the voter lists for my polling stations there were 1925 people.
This morning there were already 2122.
This evening, before the vote count, there were 2251. How could a polling station “grow” by 225 people?
The electoral committee I got was fine, I wont deny it, and they let me observe the counting of votes. My eyesights good and so I saw how they spread out the ballot papers on the nearer end of the table. Twice I caught a person “red-handed” placing ballot papers voting for Kozulin in the pile of papers for Lukashenko.
The result of the early voting and the voting on the day of the elections were radically different. I remember almost all the figures because I read the protocol more than once (incidentally it was actually signed, which was a rarity!) Overall, on the day of the elections Milinkevich got 350 votes, Lukashenko – 540, Kozulin – 73. There were 107 ballot papers “against everybody”, and 22 spoiled papers. And then compare that with the outcome of the early voting: Milinkevich – 25 votes, Lukashenko – 355, Kozulin – 26. And three votes “against everyone”. I DO NOT BELIEVE that the results could be so different. Even more so that it was not only elderly Lukashenko supporters who voted early. The largest percentage of early votes came from hostels – its obvious why.
On 19 March, after observing, we ended up at the rally on October Square towards the very end, at half past ten. As Asya put it, “the regimes conned the people yet again”: no water cannons, no rows of special force officers, no stink bombs. Hell, none of those things were needed. The most effective weapon of the present regime is fear. And it knows how to use it. The people were frightened long before the nineteenth. They were scared by the declarations of the security services about the latest “covered” bases for training fighters. Scared by the idiotic rumours about Georgian terrorists supposedly planning to blow up four schools in Minsk (and, by the way, they were also supposed to be pouring poisoning into the water system). The mother of somebody I know simply locked the guy in the flat and wouldnt let him go to the rally. In general there were about 10 thousand people at most there. They stood a bit, a bit more then headed towards Victory Square, and from then went home.
But Ill go again tomorrow.
20 – 21 March
PART 1. THE OGINSKY POLONAISE
Im writing this on 22 March at 0.48. Over the last 24 hours Ive had a total of two hours sleep. An hour and a half ago they let me out of the police station. I still dont know where my brother is. He was taking food to the people on the square.
Maybe theyre still all there, on October Square, forming a circle, shoulder to shoulder around the small tent city to protect it with their bodies. Its ten degrees below zero in Minsk. There wont be any help arriving, nobodys going to break through the row of cops and KGB officers in civilian clothes blocking all ways onto or out of the square. Nobody will be able to take them hot tea or sleeping bags. I found that out for myself a couple of hours ago. A lot of them have been there for more than 15 hours already. Soon the freezing temperatures alone will begin to break them. The latest “elegant victory” of the regime.
During these two days I feel as if Ive grown 10 years older. These days have been so full and have perhaps changed my life more than I can even imagine right now.
During these days I have learned what it means to OVERCOME Fear, what it means to LOVE, and what it means to HATE. And how it feels when your whole life is in upheaval. Some of what Ive learned and felt, I will never, but NEVER be able to forget. And there are some things I will never be able to forgive.
However long I live, these memories will stay with me. They have probably been the most earth-shaking experiences of my entire life.
It was deep blue, the sort of blue Id never seen before. In my dying moments I will try to remember that incredible blue sky over October Square in Minsk. It was in the evening on 20 March, when our Belarusian Maidan began.
Already now torrents of lies are being poured over those who took part in the tent city. It was supposedly all planned in advance, and that its all drugged-up, smoked-out total scum. The authorities even name the amount that we were supposedly paid. What is really upsetting is that even many Russian media outlets take the same line. For me personally thats like getting a knife in the back from a person you thought was your friend.
Here I am going to write the truth and only the truth. You can regard it as the most accurate information. I was among the first ten people who under the glare of the television crews and flash of cameras began erecting tents. It turned out that way. Now I face prison whatever, and Im not going to get off with 15 days. But however it all ends, I dont regret my decision.
And so, the sky over October Square: on that day, 20 March, when 10 thousand people gathered there, it was clear and dark blue, touched by the first, flickering light from the stars. Aleksandr Milinkevich, standing on the steps of the Palace of Trade Unions, his words resounding through the loudspeaker that the elections had been illegal, that pressure had been used at polling stations, that there had been mass-scale vote rigging. Then they turned on music, and the entire square was filled with the sorrowful and austere Oginsky Polonaise “Parting with the Homeland” We sang along, quietly and solemnly as though it were an anthem. It was then that something burst inside. Choked with sobs, I raised my head, gazing through a blur of tears at the vast sky above, and listened to words as though written for us:
Parting at the wide expanses of the country,
Our chosen path wounds thought,
The heart yearns for its native home
And the familiar image comes to life like a troubled wound.
Our standard flares,
A fire will blaze in the night
And with the marching pipes
Our country will again call you and I to brave battle,
our only country
For it in exile
The road of return,
The road of struggle
It was not a song along, but a call and a plea. And we did not betray it.
After the song people said some other things there on the steps. However the main events took place not there, but in the very thick of the gathering of people. When they suddenly moved back, freeing space, and on the asphalt the first tents appeared. Among them was mine. 5 people started putting them up. I didnt manage to get there – from out of the crowd some hefty guys with fat, expressionless faces and in black woolly hats shot out. They began frenziedly trampling the tents, breaking the poles, grabbing and carrying away sleeping bags and tents, and aiming blows at those erecting the tents. Their actions were coordinated and professional. People managed to grab some things back, but most of the stuff was taken away. Fortunately it was only the first batch. After that the people around us simply formed a human shield. They stood close, arm in arm and didnt let anyone through. Those who tried to push their way through were elbowed out. And there were a lot of provocateurs, KGB men in plain clothes, a hell of a lot. They stood around us, herded together. And some attached our badges “Za svabodu!” [“For Freedom!”] and tried to quietly slip through the cordon. And there, with our human cordon, we erected our tents. I vividly remember the moment when I stood in that human cordon, wondering whether to pass inside, and I heard my friend Svetka call me – she was already there, working. I didnt feel any particular emotions right then. I simply crossed over and took a pole, helping to put up one of the tents. The shock hit later. At first I tried to hide my face in my hood because there were a huge number of video and camera lights aiming straight into my eyes. Then I decided that that was some kind of half-measure and that there was no sense in stopping there. And I removed my hood.
We put up the tents, spread out ground sheets and sat on them. It was then that I began trembling. The realization penetrated of WHAT we had done. And of the fact that all my previous life, quite possibly, in that very moment was slipping like sand through my fingers. Everything! Both the intellectual games and the childrens club that had given me so much pleasure for years were over And my comfortable existence, and work in my scientific journal editorial office, and my friends, books, my parents. And my beloved Minsk. And, perhaps, Belarus … Maybe also freedom.
I tried then to hide my tears under my hood so that the journalists wouldnt see them. Not a good sight, when a person is trembling and shuddering from tears.
Then I calmed down: what was done was done. There was no way back. And after all, was it worth reading so many good books in childhood, and listening to so many great songs in order to then stand back in life, “not involved”?
There was only one thing left to do and I did it then. I rang the person I have loved for the last two years and told him so.
I had wanted to for a long time, but had not been able to summon up the courage. And now there was nothing left to fear.
PART 2 “THE WONDERFUL FAR OFF WORLD” and this and that about lies
At first there were a very big number of people around us, forming a dense human shield. Music was playing from the steps and journalists came up to interview us. I spoke with a correspondent from “Euro news” and some Georgian television journalists, and with correspondents from (the Russian TV station) NTV. I wasnt overly thrilled about that, Ill be honest, but for some reason they came up to me quite often.
After 23.00 the music was turned off because its against the law to play loud music at night. We tried to obey the law in everything, even trivial things. We knew that any such minor thing could be used against us. And if they couldnt find one, theyd think something up.
After twelve, people began to leave so as to catch the metro before it closed. There were less and less of us, but the cordon held amazingly, quite simply to the bitter end. At night people began coming with thermoses of hot tea. As a rule it was elderly men and women from the neighbouring apartment blocks. From the very beginning it was no simple matter to get to us. So as not to let the people help us, at the approaches to the square the police detained anyway whom they found carrying a thermos. And yet something they managed to get them through. I remember two older women who brought us three thermoses with hot water. They kissed us and said that they would pray for us. Closer to morning, a quite elderly man arrived with a crumpled cellophane packet. The packet contained some boiled sausage and bread. He said: “Im sorry that theres so little, it was all I had in my fridge”.
If it hadnt been for those people, we would have had a much harder time. Now the police grab them and for a thermos of tea or a sleeping bag, they get 10 days imprisonment. According to information on the Internet yesterday, theyve already detained more than 100 people.
What did we do in the centre of the circle? We walked around, talked to each other. We sat in a circle and sang songs. The very first song we sang was “Prekrasnoye daleko” [“The Wonderful far off world”]
That also felt as if it was about us. Some people from the radio held out a microphone and taped us. My voice cracked when we reached the words:
“I hear a voice, the voice asks sternly,
And what today have I done for tomorrow?”
That song, surrounded by people protecting us with their bodies is another thing I will try to remember all my life. That evening was, perhaps, the best and most important of my whole life.
My account will in many things refute all the lies which were hurled at us by Belarusian and some of the Russian mass media. For example, it is a LIE that our action was anti-Russian, that we hate Russia. There were Russians among us from Moscow, with the Russian three colours. Our maidan began not only to Belarusian songs. We were most of all united singing the songs “Peremeny” [“Changes”], “Grupa krovi” [“Blood group”], “Zvezda po imeni sontsa” [“A star named the Sun”] by Viktor Tsoi, and “Prosvistela” “Whistled” by DDT We sang Gorodnitskys “Atlanty” and Vysotskys “knizhnye dyeti” [“Book children”, “Idiot march” by Medvedyev and “Krylatiye krylya” [“Flying swing”].
Our protest was against lies and dictatorship, against the vote rigging in the elections, against people disappearing and journalists being beaten up. It was against the Soviet Union grabbing out at us from its supposedly deep grave.
I feel like asking the Russians: do you really need an ally like Lukashenko? An ally chosen on the principle: “a swine, of course, but hes our swine”?
Those Russians who stood on our cordon, shoulder to shoulder with Belarusians, they dont need an ally like that.
And there were also several Ukrainians with us who managed to slip through the border with their flag. There was a Georgian flag, though I dont think I saw any Georgians. There were a lot of white-red-white flags and several European Union flags. Two young Estonian journalists erected flags together with us.
Incidentally, its a LIE that everything had been planned in advance. I can tell you how the idea to set out tents arose. Later they can wrench any testimony they like out of me to say that it was all different, but here I hope Ill have time to tell the truth.
I rent a flat together with Sasha and Tanya. Ive lived with Tanya ever since our hostel days while studying at the journalism faculty of the Belarusian State University. Sometimes Sveta, another friend from the same student hostel, visits us from Smorgon.
On 18 March at the concert in support of Milinkevich, Tanya and Sasha met two journalists from Estonia, K. and S. They were walking around, asking if there was anyway they could stay the night because they didnt want to go to a hotel. K. told us that on the border they were questioned for three hours by a man from the KGB. They took Ks laptop away and for that reason they were scared to stay somewhere officially.
Tanya and Sasha brought them to our place. We talked late into the night and then in the morning I went off to the polling station to observe and then to the square, and didnt actually return home at all. I spent the night at Pashas place.
The figures that the Central Election Commission began issuing already in the evening made it clear that we had been cheated. On the 19 in the evening Sveta arrived at our flat. She had campaigned for Milinkevich in Smorgon and the results from the voting at her polling station were also disturbing. As Tanya told me, at night they sat up and talked in the kitchen about how they could express their protest. The idea of tents came to everybodys mind more or less at the same time.
The funniest thing is that the idea didnt occur to them only. That night Pasha and I also discussed the possibility, but didnt move beyond just discussing it. However Sveta and Tanya did move on from mere words. They rang friends and the people from “Molodoy Front” “Youth Front”. It turned out that a lot of people were thinking the same thing. They just needed to arrange when to come to the square, and how to get the equipment through. K. And S. were surprised at first then they said: “You think yourselves, its your country, after all. Well help you put them up, of course. At worst theyll deport us. But youll have big problems”
Sveta and Tanya agreed to the problems. That made four of them. On the morning of the twentieth they rang Pasha and I to ask for permission to take my tent, sleeping bag and rucksack. I said yes, of course. Pasha and I decided that wed also take part at some stage. It didnt seem such a serious thing at that point.
That made six of us. Not counting people I didnt know.
By the way the average age of the people on October Square was around my age – 24. There were some really young ones - students, but not only. There were also some people who were older. They were mainly the strong guys who formed our cordon. There were more men than women.
Anyway, to continue my story. We were photographed almost all the time. So that the flash didnt stop me singing, I closed my eyes.
In the centre of the camp, among the tents, we spread out ground sheets. At first we put food and warm things in the middle, but then there got to be too many and we set aside two tents for supplies.
When I carried hot tea around the rows, somebody gave me two bouquets of irises and some other flowers. We put them in a jar. Next to them somebody placed an icon theyd brought. We lit two thick candles by it. We tried to keep the centre in order, and to clear away rubbish. An icon, after all …Nearby we only put the thermoses with hot tea, but they were emptied pretty soon. . We didnt sit in the middle very much – as soon as people brought us hot tea or coffee, we poured it into glasses and handed it around to the people on the cordon.
Incidentally, one of the grubbiest fabrications of the Belarusian mass media was that we were all drunk and that the thermoses people were bringing were full of beer. As fabrications go, it was especially inept: I mean what idiot in freezing temperatures at 3 oclock in the morning is going to drink beer, and not hot water?
In fact we foresaw such lies, and therefore in the tent city there was a total ban on alcohol. Everyone understood very well that if, God forbid, they found even a drop of alcohol, theyd immediately record it and label us alcoholics. We periodically chanted: “IM DRY! IM DRY!”
At about 4 in the morning some guy we didnt know turned up with two bottles of vodka. At first we wanted to send him away with them, but then we thought that maybe he wasnt actually a provocateur and thought what would happen if the cops caught him. We didnt even open the damned bottles. We wrapped them up in what we could, thrust them in a bag, hid them in the tent and put piles of things on top of them.
Aleksandr Milinkevich and his wife were with us all through the night. They came down from the steps to our tents. One time they managed to bring from outside a thermos with hot tea. But Milinkevichs two sons were detained in the night on the avenue while trying to bring warm things.
At night it was very cold, especially for the people on the cordon who were protecting us also from the wind. Those people … I would get on my knees before them. They stood in a tight circle in freezing temperatures all through the night and some of them longer – 14 HOURS OR MORE, not going anywhere or budging from their place. At night a really young lad was brought to us who was lightly dressed. He could hardly talk. We gave him hot tea and rubbed his hands – hed come without gloves even.
How did we keep warm? We sang songs, chanted slogans, danced to a beat tapped out on our mugs. In different parts of the cordon people from time to time also began dancing – something like medieval dances in circles, shifting from one foot to the other, stamping in rhythm. Some tried crouching down and getting up. Several ran around the cordon, trying all the time to stay as close as possible to those standing there. They ran with flags, in front there was a guy with a Russian flag, then someone with two flags – a Belarusian and a Ukraine, then there was a Georgian flag. They periodically called out cheerfully: “Young people for a healthy lifestyle!” I ran with them too. Its brilliant for keeping warm.
A little later we had to deal with another problem – TOILETS - prosaic as that may be. Obviously there were many people in the nearby buildings who would have let us in to use theirs. The problem was that we couldnt get there. Around the cordon there were people in civilian clothes and SOBR (special forces) officers, and all the ways onto and out of the square were blocked. I saw with my own eyes that on the adjoining streets there were whole “convoys” of vans for prisoners, coaches with riot police. You just had to move off a little bit, and that would be the end.
We thought for a long time about how to get around the problem. One guy, an underground digger, helped us. Virtually with his bare hands he wrenched open a sewage hatch, from the end closer to the road. We placed a tent over the hatch and bored a hole. At first the stink was terrible. I called out in an upbeat way to those around: “And you thought the revolution would smell of roses?” and plunged into the tent.
On Belarusian television they said that the revolting protesters had set up a toilet quite deliberately next to the Museum of the Great Patriotic War (WWII). Absurd! The Museum was so far away from the cordon and journalists cameras that anyone who had even thought of going there would not have returned.
Another lie needs to be mentioned. Its such an idiotic and inept invention, and yet many people believe it. We are supposed to be standing here simply for money. The first figure mentioned was 20 thousand Belarusian roubles. Then they realized that that sounded hilariously stupid. The authorities therefore “increased” our “salary” by almost 5 times – right up to 50 US dollars.
My God! Let those who believe that come and try standing under the gaze and cameras of plain-clothed officers. Let them stand there for 14 hours, getting numb with the cold, and waiting for the sun to rise as some salvation. And cry out joyfully when the suns risen. Then let them see in the morning that there is hardly anything to eat and drink, because people are simply unable to get through. And to feel how ominously the cordon is thinning with every moment because people just cant endure it any longer and are going home to sleep, with nobody there to replace them. And let them wait every second for the storm to begin, for beatings, for provocation. And know that perhaps tomorrow youll be thrown out of your university or work, or put in prison.
Yes, in the morning there were really few of us. At 6 a.m. when bus No. 100 went along the avenue, we thought of something. That part of the cordon which was facing the avenue bent down each time the “one hundred” passed by so that the tents could be seen. And they chanted: “DALUCHAITSES! DA-LU-CHAI-TSES!” (Belarusian for “JOIN US!”) They did it as long as they physically could. We waited and waited for held, but so little came! However at 9 it became clear that the cordon would hold out. Enough people to provide replacement had arrived.
When we took them hot tea and food, they said “thank you, but weve just come from home”.
At 9 oclock in the morning I started feeling really bad. I wanted to sleep and I couldnt stop shaking from the cold. Pasha and I waited for the right moment and dashed past the special force officers and the plain-clothed men with the journalists standing nearby, leapt onto a No. 100 bus and left. And Sveta and Tanya stayed there for the third day without sleep.
PART 4. A SLEEPING BAG AS WEAPON OF THE PROLETARIAT. THOSE I HATE
Pasha and I slept a couple of hours then went off to our respective places of work. It was so strange: you are already a different person, and your life is changing so quickly, and yet for the moment everything continues through inertia, and its all quiet. In the editorial office nobody knew anything yet. It was still possible for another day to comfort oneself with the strange illusion that ones former, measured and comfortable existence was continuing. A strange and sweet illusion, as if out of prison or from the war you return for half a day to your previous life.
I didnt even fall asleep at work. I edited a hellishly difficult article and energetically sorted out other stuff. Then I went home, to dress as warmly as possible, and to put on decent boots, as Id been idiot enough to go out in light spring boots. I didnt have time to eat properly. I decided to go to October Square, although I had doubts. I think I had a slight cold, and I also just really wanted to get enough sleep and to write my diary. And then suddenly theyll take me away, and forget your “continuation to follow”! I decided to go though anyway. I wrapped my sleeping bag around me under my sheepskin, sewed it to my jersey and stuck it with scotch.
They grabbed me at the metro on October Square. It was banal and simple: the sleeping bag could be seen from underneath the sheepskin. A police officer blocked my way, asked to see my documents and told me to come with him to the police base in the metro. There they made me do an enforced striptease act, and pull out everything from my bag. I tried to behave as calmly and helpfully as possible. I attempted to hold a human conversation with the people in uniform and it worked. The officer who was sitting there was generally OK, it was with him that I talked. That black-eyed and nice older guy in all seriousness asked me how much Id been paid. The second one was quite different. He shook out the contents of my bag. Found some disks and asked in a morose tone what was on them. I calmly answered: “Well take them, have a look”, while at the same time broke out into a cold sweat. There was news on them from the website www.svaboda.org (the Belarusian service of “Radio Liberty”) and “March diaries”. The second cop tried to decide for a long time whether to break my disks (which at that moment I wanted more than anything). In the end, however, he gave them back. They also returned the business card from K. in Estonian. Presumably they didnt notice the word “correspondent”. I spoke with the police officers and tried to explain my position, to get them to understand that we werent drunken louts. They told me that that night there was going to be a “catch” – people were going to be beaten up and taken to the police station. In general, they tried in every way to scare me. Only one time did I almost lose my cool, and that was when the plain clothed men arrived, the KGB brigade.
If I can understand and in some ways excuse the police, those KGB creatures I HATE! They are all somehow similar with their fattish and expressionless faces, their identical self-satisfaction and certainty of their own impunity. Theyre all dressed in dark anonymous clothes, and you recognize them by that.
THESE were with badges, OUR badges “za svabodu”! They acted like the bosses in the police base. One of them, the one who was a bit taller and more thick-set, looked at my sleeping bag and said: “O, a sleeping bag” Ill take it to Nikolayich in the car, let him warm up, hes freezing now after 4 hours”
And then I understand that I would need to hold myself rigid or else Id explode.
They groped about among my things, and spent a long time looking at my passport. They took the book by the Strugatsky brothers which was in my bag, bemusedly waving it around (I was dying to say its a book, that people read it), and asked “Whats this? A detective novel? Mysticism?
At first they wanted to write up a protocol and take me to the temporary detention unit on Okrestina Street. But then the tall one said: “Ah, leave her! Lets get moving to those morons, or while were taking her, theyll eat all the best things in the cordon without us”,
And he pinned a white-red-white badge in the most prominent spot.
I had never before experienced such hatred and pain. I wanted to lunge at his throat, that well-fed cynical hog who could arrest us and with a clear conscience guzzle our food. The food that people had managed to get to us, risking being put in prison for 10 days. Which young women who hadnt slept for two days keeping vigil on Maidan handed around with their frozen hands. THAT is impossible to forget or to forgive. Lord, if you exist! Send me to hell if you wish. But do one thing! Perform a miracle and make the next piece of food that THAT CREATURE eats choke him. That is impossible to forgive or forget. The most revolting thing that the present regime has done – is to divide its own people into “honest” and “dishonest”. It has succeeded in well and truly brainwashing the majority of the people. It has in the most vile way slandered the purest, most honest and courageous, those unable to tolerate injustice, unable to reconcile themselves with evil. And it has forced that smallest “dissident” part to see in every person they meet a potential provocateur and security service agent. And the entire nation has been forced into silence and fear. Fear if arrest, of losing their job, of being beaten up in a dark entrance. Fear for themselves, for their friends and relatives. During these days I have had phone calls constantly from friends and people I know asking if Im free and how I feel.
Theyre checking to find out if everythings OK with me.
If Im OK, then not for long. I have no illusions on that score. If they held me today for two hours and then released me, that doesnt meant that democracy has arrived in the country.
It just didnt suit them to make a lot of noise right now when there are so many foreign journalists in Minsk. There are people from Reuters, Polish Television and other mass media. Its purely their presence thats protecting us. We are at liberty while there, on the square, the cordon stands. I think that as soon as all this ends, “the committee of state security will remember our names”. All the more so since we didnt hide our faces.
22 March. DA-LU-CHAI-TSES!
I got a bit of sleep at home. Im quickly finishing my diary and heading to the square. Calls keep pouring in from friends and relatives who saw me on NTV and “Euronews”. But something strange is going on with the phone, there are some noises and clicks. Most likely theyre listening in.
Last night the Estonians, K. and C. rang. The Estonian Consul has asked them to leave the country immediately. He said that they had been totally in view together with us, and that the “tent people” were going to have big problems. They asked us to forgive them that they were leaving and abandoning us.
I hope I can send these diary entries onto the Internet, Ill drop into an Internet café. Ill send them to whoever I can.
I dont know what tomorrow will bring. I want to ask those who read this. PEOPLE! If youre Belarusians, anyone who can, come to the square Stand there with us! DA-LU-CHAI-TSES!
If you live far away from Minsk, pass on these diary notes so that as many people as possible read them. You will help a lot in that way. If you cant stand there together with us, then at least REMEMBER how it was and tell others.
Just in case, goodbye to all of you!
When the dull light of the drowned moon
Like a boat appears in our dark eyes
Well greet the charm of the wave
And none of us will return again.
We remember that the island is still far away,
We know that the sea will burn our brows,
But its so simple here, we feel so good here –
The blind have no need of lighthouses.
To those sailing – the sea,
Where the reef and shallows,
If we are to drown, then well drown – vivat! And could anyone quarrel
In the coming sorrow
The rower has no faith; he has spurned his path back,
So be it, the free have their freedom!
The steering wheel is in our hands – that means that we will steer,
And throw your compass to the underwater demons!
We lived like fish, now we will live
Like starfish, marking out fate
We move exactly to the Syrens.
To the voice of their sorrowful sagas of mourning,
Our navigator the eyeless cyclone Polyphemus
So, we will meet in the heavens!
«Zimovye zveryei». – a music band from St. Petersburg
 “maidan” is the Ukrainian word for “square” which took on added meaning, as a place where the people assert their right to be heard, during the Orange Revolution in 2004. (translators note)