The Belarus police just executed a crackdown on protesters in the capital of Minsk, arresting more than 1,000 people as a result of last week’s disputed presidential election. The opposition claims that incumbent Alexander Lukashenko cheated on the majority of voters during the re-election.
Ironically, the Soviet Union was actively engaged in the October Revolution that overthrew the pro-western Soviet government of Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania.
At a protest in the city of Dostoyevsk, police brutally sprayed protesters with water cannons and fired stun grenades into the crowd. As people fled to the street, they were sent crashing into a wall of police stationed there, and three people were hit by police gunfire. It’s not a pretty picture.
The opposition says some 19 people were killed during the election. According to my local sources, however, some 17 people died in violence which erupted just after the election was completed. Some of the dead are protesters who were shot by opposition supporters. Others were reportedly shot by security forces and unknown attackers. Some high school students were among the dead.
Zoey Kostushenko, a 20-year-old university student who was shot by opposition supporters when she was riding her bicycle, told state-controlled Viasat TV, “I tried to run to the central square and saw rows of people running and burning tires. I didn’t want to leave. People were shouting and there was gunfire.” She is now in a coma in the hospital.
The Belarus parliamentary elections in October 2018 were much cleaner and more representative. Lukashenko saw off no opposition and won a new term. In the run-up to the recent presidential election, however, Lukashenko appeared to be trying to move the country towards a more democratic form of government. He promised to set up a database of all government officials, including officials from the military, who have not been convicted of a crime and has taken steps to introduce easier travel visas and to reduce corruption.
“A whole new round of reports about the Belarusian president is now being posted online today, and if the allegations about the elections are true, it would be quite frightening. This election was of such a low standard that an independent observer shouldn’t vote. But it’s not just President Lukashenko and his government to blame, because officials from the security services and the army have also played a key role in the chaos,” says Transmedia Centre Policy Director Karl Charlier.
Unfortunately, Lukashenko’s cynicism about what he wants for his people has become evident. In the midst of the unrest at Dostoyevsk, in an apparent attempt to break the unrest, Lukashenko was photographed dining at the governor’s offices, though many protests had been underway for the past ten days.
Lukashenko’s goal is to position himself as a regional leader in a velvet rope led by Russia, rather than as an all-honest and honest reformer who is trying to work for the betterment of the country.
Faced with this escalation of provocation, by both the opposition and the Belarusian state, the EU called for a “restraint” in Belarus, and are now considering whether or not to impose additional sanctions on Belarus.
A relatively liberal country in Soviet times, Belarus is now a police state, with one of the highest rates of detention under President Lukashenko.
Kostushenko’s activities are reminiscent of the political repression in Russia, not least because both countries were once intimately connected.