Europe

Belarus suspends joblessness penalty that sparked protests

The president of Belarus has suspended collection of a fee from the unemployed which had sparked an unusual wave of protests throughout the authoritarian country.

A two-year-old law called for a fine equivalent to $250 for anyone who had been unemployed for six months but who had not registered with state labor exchanges.

In February, unsanctioned protests against the law broke out in several cities, including a gathering of some 2,000 people in the capital that was the largest opposition action in more than five years. Although police generally break up unauthorized gatherings quickly, there was no interference with these rallies.

President Alexander Lukashenko, who has suppressed opposition and independent media since coming to office in 1994, on Thursday announced collection of the fee would be suspended.