Siarhei Kavalenka (Belarusian: Сяргей Каваленка, born January 16, 1975) is a Belarusian political activist and member of the Conservative Christian Party sentenced for 2 years in prison after placing a white-red-white flag on top of a Christmas tree in Vitsebsk.
Flag placing in Vitsebsk
On January 7, 2010, Kavalenka climbed atop a Christmas tree in the centre of his native Vitsebsk and placed the historical Belarusian white-red-white banner on top of it. The white-red-white banner has been used by the Belarusian independence and pro-democracy movement since 1917 and has been the official flag of Belarus in 1918 and 1991-1995. It is now widely used as a symbol of the opposition to president Alexander Lukashenka.
The court gave Kavalenka three years of suspended sentence. The trial got wide coverage in independent Belarusian media. Human rights groups stated that the court's decision has been politically motivated. Nasha Niva, a major independent newspaper, placed Siarhey Kavalenka among the most notable people of Belarus in 2010 as the Hero of the Year.
In late 2011 Kavalenka was again arrested and accused of violating the conditions of his suspended sentence. As a protest against the arrest, on 19 December 2010 he started a hunger strike. The hunger strike was interrupted by force-feeding on 16 January 2012.
On February 24 Kavalenka was sentenced to 25 months of prison by judge Elena Zhuk and prosecutor Dmitry Lutov.
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