Last week, in Europe, Central Asia, and the Caucasus, demonstrations were reported across the region around International Labor Day, coronavirus-related measures, and in solidarity with demonstrators in Colombia. In Russia and Belarus, demonstrations against state repression and in support of political prisoners continued. Demonstrations related to the handling of the coronavirus and its economic and social fallout continued across the region as well.
International Labor Day, or May Day, demonstrations took place in a number of countries on and around 1 May, including in Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Russia, North Macedonia, Poland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Cyprus, and Armenia. France was particularly active, with demonstration events reported in at least 157 cities. In Berlin, Germany, and Vienna, Austria, May Day was dominated by the political left; in Berlin, demonstrations turned violent when some demonstrators were pulled out of the demonstration for not following coronavirus measures (Reuters, 2 May 2021; France24, 2 May 2021). In Greece, demonstrations peaked on 6 May when thousands participated in mass protests in Athens to mark May Day and to oppose planned labor reforms, which many believe will restrict workers’ rights (AP, 6 May 2021).
In Russia and Belarus, demonstrations took place last week against regime repression and in support of political prisoners. Demonstrators in Belarus denounced the regime of Alexander Lukashenko as illegitimate while demonstrators in Russia condemned an ongoing crackdown on the opposition and the free press. Meanwhile, Russian authorities continued to target opposition activists and participants of the pro-Alexei Navalny demonstrations on April 21 (Kommersant, 1 May 2021; Interfax, 7 May 2021).
Meanwhile, demonstrations related to the coronavirus pandemic continued across the region last week. In Portugal, Spain, Malta, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, and Sweden, people demonstrated against coronavirus measures. In Ukraine and Kazakhstan, labor groups demand that authorities lift restrictions on their work. Health workers demand higher hazard pay during the pandemic in Denmark, Greece, and Azerbaijan. Students have been demonstrating throughout France demanding the cancellation of final-year high school exams. The students claim that difficult studying conditions for a prolonged period due to the coronavirus pandemic means they should be evaluated on the assessed work over the course of the year instead (The Local, 4 May 2021).
Colombian and local people gathered in Spain, Belgium, Italy, and the Netherlands to demonstrate in solidarity against the violent repression of demonstrators by the Duque administration in Colombia.
In Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, military units of both countries complied with the ceasefire agreement reached on 2 May following clashes due to a dispute over water rights. Both states withdrew servicemen and military equipment from the border near the conflict zone (RFE/RL, 3 May 2021). Prior to the commencement of the ceasefire, Tajik armed forces reportedly fired at civilians and civilian infrastructure in Kyrgyzstan (RFE/RL, 1 May 2021; Kaktus Media, 1 May 2021; Akipress, 1 May 2021).
Along the Armenia-Artsakh-Azerbaijan border, no clashes nor shelling was reported last week.
Lastly, in the Donbas region of Ukraine, fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-led forces increased slightly last week compared to the previous week. There were 66 armed clashes, 142 shelling incidents, and eight fatalities reported.
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