Thousands of people took to the streets in Belarus to denounce the results of Sunday’s presidential election. The opposition is announcing protests and strikes for the coming days.
Law enforcement intervened in force and everyone is wondering if the people of Belarus will have enough strength and determination to get rid of Lukashenko, who has been in power for 26 years.
Expected with interest are the movements of the West and Moscow.
At least one person is reportedly dead as a result of violent clashes between police and thousands of protesters who took to the streets to denounce the results of the Belarusian elections that give the winner for a sixth term Aleksandr Lukashenko, acting president since 1994 and also known as “the last dictator of Europe”. According to the Human Rights Centre Viasna, a young protester died as a result of a head injury after being hit by a police vehicle.
Dozens of other people were injured following protests on Sunday night. Activist Valiantsin Stefanovic accused the Belarusian Interior Minister and the Security Council of the man’s death. A Foreign Ministry spokesman denied the existence of any casualties, according to free Europe. The state-run BeltA agency announced that the police had taken control of “unauthorized gatherings,” while a senior prosecutor’s office officially announced the opening of a criminal investigation for “mass disturbances” and “attacks on law enforcement.”
According to Viasna, police and security forces detained at least 130 independent election observers, journalists and protesters in Minsk on 9 August, and more than 100 in other cities where protests took place after the election officials announced the results.
After dispersing the crowd, police chased small groups of protesters through Minsk for several hours, according to the Associated Press. In Brest, law enforcement used tear gas and flare grenades to disperse a gathering of 2 to 300 people that was part of an initial gathering of 5,000 people.
Lukashenko, the winner with about 80% of the votes
The Central Electoral Office of Belarus declared Aleksandr Lukashenko the winner for the sixth term with about 80% of the vote. His re-election is regarded as fraudulent by the opposition and by protesters who took to the streets of Belarus on Sunday night.
According to the president of the CEC, the president’s main challenger, Svetlana Tihanovskaia received 9.8% of the vote, the remaining three opposition candidates below 2% each. Tihanovskaia said on Sunday night that he did not recognise the result of the exit poll, which gave Lukashenko the winner by about the same score.
Svetlana Tihanovskaia, calling on law enforcement
The opposition candidate in Belarus’ presidential election, Svetlana Tihanovskaia, urged law enforcement not to use force against people who took to the streets. “Do not respond violently to peaceful protests, remember that you are also part of the Belarusian people!” asked Tihanovskaia in a call read live on Current Time television.
Lukaşenka’s opponent says his staff does not have access to the internet, and the information he has comes via SMS and is “very worrying.” His call could not be broadcast by several Belarusian media outlets, whose websites were blocked by the authorities. Tihanovskaia urged law enforcement not to respond violently to peaceful protests, and for protesters to avoid any provocations. “Officers are asking them to stop the violence. In the morning the country will wake up to a new reality. The country has changed!” the opposition candidate says.
Current Time reports that in several Belarusian cities, OMON troops have put their shields down, refusing to intervene forcefully against the crowd
Protests will continue
The Opposition has planned extensive protest actions in the coming days, according to journalist Natalia Radina, editor-in-chief of the website Charter97, one of the most popular online opposition portals in Belarus.
Natalia Radina was among the journalists persecuted by the Lukashenko regime. She stayed in the KGB prison in Minsk and risked 15 years’ detention “for organizing mass disturbances.”
She managed to leave the country and now the newsroom is working from Poland. Recently, Natalia Radina helped bring safely to an EU country the children of Alexander Lukashenko’s main competitor, Svetlana Tihanuskaya, after she was threatened with being kidnapped by her children if she did not withdraw her candidacy.
“What we see today, the fact that tens of thousands of people take to the streets, protest, that speaks of the fact that Lukaşenka’s time has passed.
There will also be mass protest actions in Belarus that will last not a single day, there will be strikes. And I think Alexander Lukashenko’s time is over and we can talk for days, the maximum of months that he has left,” Radina told free Europe.
Lukashenko lost support for the nomenclature
Lukashenko said he would not allow “destabilization of the country by three girls”. But the Belarusian journalist says that ” against Lukashenko the whole country has risen. And the nomenclature – and this is confirmed by the participation in the elections of an official from Lukaşenka’s entourage, of one of his relatives of another time, Valeri Tîpkalo. And the businessmen are against him – this is confirmed by the election participation of Viktor Babarîka, a banker who is now in prison.”
In fact, now everyone is against Lukaşenko because Belarus does not live well enough, as state propaganda claims.
The Belarusian journalist says that ” dictatorships fall unexpectedly”. “You can believe in that or you can’t believe it. I, for example, believe that Putin can fall at any time. At some point, the patience of the people breaks and then nothing can save the dictators – no kind of repressive apparatus, no hordes of militiamen or OMON troops.
In addition, we must understand that militia employee, the military, the OMON also live among people, are not orphans, have families, have parents, have children and their children and their families are dissatisfied with the situation in Belarus.
I mean, this is happening everywhere – followers of Alexander Lukashenko don’t exist anywhere. Lukashenko has a nickname that’s stuck to him, and now no one calls him anything but “Sasha 3%.” And I think in reality he doesn’t even have 3% support. And if you go out on the streets of Minsk or other localities now, you won’t find followers of his,” says Natalia Radina.
As for the “Wagner mercenaries,” she says that “it’s a show that Lukashenko organized to convince the West that the Russians want to get him out of power. In fact, the Belarusian people have risen against him, and I don’t see any pro-Russian slogans or Russian flags at opposition rallies.”
The reaction of the West and Moscow is expected
Now the reaction of the European capitals, which in recent years have simulated accepting a kind of respectability recognized to the regime.
On the one hand, Lukashenko is seen as an unpredictable but useful dictator, because he sometimes opposes Vladimir Putin and confuses his plans to reunite Russia with Belarus, on the other hand, Lukashenko has offered his capital for negotiations between Ukraine and the pro-Russian separatists in Donbas, negotiations that led to a truce, accompanied by a provisional agreement called the “Minsk agreement”.
Foreign Policy writes that this crisis in Belarus comes at the most inopportune time for the European Union and for the West in general, in the absence of any geo-strategic coordination between Washington and European capitals.
Such unanimity is needed among the 27 EU countries to impose European sanctions, but Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has already announced as early as June that he opposes restrictive measures against Lukashenko.
As for the Kremlin leader, however much he’s had enough of Lukashenko, he knows all his weaknesses and uses him.
Vladimir Putin congratulates Lukashenko
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a “congratulatory telegram” to his Belarusian counterpart Aleksandr Lukashenko on Monday, who was proclaimed the winner following a controversial vote marked by violently repressed anti-government demonstrations, AFP reports.
“I count on the fact that your action at the head of the state will allow the future development of mutually beneficial Russian-Belarus relations,” Putin told Lukashenko, according to the Kremlin.
The Belarusian president has in recent weeks accused his traditional Russian ally of trying to turn his country into a vassal, supporting the opposition and trying to destabilize it.
According to Belta.by, the following foreign leaders congratulated Lukashenko on re-election: Xi Jinping (China), Vladimir Putin (Russian Federation), Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (Kazakhstan), Ilham Aliyev (Azerbaijan), Shavkat Mirziyoyev (Uzbekistan), Emomali Rahmon (Tajikistan). Still no words from US or European leaders.
Poland wants an extraordinary EU summit
Poland called for an extraordinary European Union summit on the situation in Belarus on Monday “The authorities have used force against their own citizens who were demanding a change in the country. We must support the Belarusian people in their quest for freedom,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in a statement.
For its part, the Warsaw Foreign Ministry condemned the violence and urged the authorities in the neighbouring country to ‘stop the escalation of the situation and start respecting fundamental human rights’. “In the face of ongoing events in Belarus, the Polish Foreign Ministry expresses its deep concern at the brutal pacification of post-election demonstrations. The harsh reaction, the use of force against peaceful protesters and arbitrary arrests are unacceptable,” the Polish diplomacy communiqué says.
Belarusian opposition candidate Svetlana Tihanovskaia on Monday refused to acknowledge the official results announced by the Central Election Commission, which emphatically gave Lukashenko more than 80% of the vote.
Feel free to add your own opinion about this situation and the outcome in the comments section.