What is going on in Belarus?
Massive demonstrations in
There are huge demonstrations in Belarus. Is it a spontaneous reaction to election fraud or is it being exploited by the West?
My own experience is limited to a 24 hour stopover in Minsk in which I got to hear a lot of dissatisfaction with the government of Lukashenko. But that was back in 2007.
Is this a spontaneous response to election fraud, or something else?
I am not paying enough attention to this to make any sort of judgement.
No question about where the Guardian is on this.
On Saturday, the Belarusian president ordered an air assault brigade to be transferred from Vitebsk region in the country’s northeast to Grodno region near Belarus’s borders with Poland and Lithuania after expressing concerns about increasing military activity in those two NATO nations.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has given his first public address since last Sunday’s presidential elections and the week of turmoil which has followed, and emphasized that he would not agree to any new round of elections demanded from abroad.
“Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and, unfortunately, our kindred Ukraine and its leadership are ordering us to hold new elections. If we agree to toe the line, we will go into a tailspin and never again stabilize our airship [of state]. We will die as a state, as a people, as a nation,” Lukashenko said, speaking before thousands of supporters on Independence Square in central Minsk on Sunday. “I will never agree to the scrapping of our state. This will not happen,” he stressed.
Lukashenko also warned about an alleged buildup of NATO forces, including tanks and aircraft, on Belarus’s western borders.
“Look around: there are tanks, there aircraft are taking off 15 minutes from our borders. And this is not for nothing! NATO forces are clanging their tank tracks at our gates. A buildup of military power is taking place near the western border,” Lukashenko said. “They [the opposition] are already being manipulated by outsiders, by puppeteers. They see the western borders of Belarus here, near Minsk, as it was in 1939, and not near Brest,” he added. “This will not happen. We will become Brest Fortress. We will not give up the country.”
Addressing allegations by the opposition that he had ‘stolen’ the election, Lukashenko said that this was impossible, given the size of his margin of victory. “The elections have taken place. It’s impossible to falsify over 80 percent of the result. This cannot happen…Who will hold these [new] elections? Who will take part in these elections? Bandits and thieves!” he suggested
The Belarusian leader, who has been in power since 1994, and won a sixth consecutive term last Sunday, insisted that he was not clinging to his post. “I am not standing here because I have firmly grasped power. For a quarter of a century, I gave my youth and the best years of my life to serve you and our Motherland…They [the opposition] are shouting ‘Go away!’. No problem, no problem. Presidents come and go…But then what? And who will we wait for here tomorrow? Who will we have to feed tomorrow?” he asked.
Lukashenko also stressed that if Belarusians want to see reforms, the government will be ready to start “tomorrow,” so long as the requests are reasonable. He suggested, for example, that the state could not agree to give out ‘free money’ like some wealthier Western countries have amid the recent coronavirus crisis. “‘Money thrown from helicopters’ from thin air does not exist. That money must be earned every day, and not in the public square, but in factories and enterprises.”
Lukashenko talks to the crowd
The usual crowd saying the usual things
Dr Marcus Papadopoulos explained why Belarus will not fall victim to American designs on the country
The commentary from the Duran is far more nuanced
Belarus Lukashenko government faces collapse as protests gain strength
This is from a non-official news site from Russia
President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said that Russia is ready at the first demand of Minsk to send troops to the territory of the republic and provide all the necessary military assistance.
“When it comes to the military component, we have an agreement with the Russian Federation within the framework of the Union State and the CSTO. These are the moments that fit this agreement. Therefore, today I had a long, detailed conversation with the Russian President about the situation. I was even somewhat surprised – he is absolutely devoted to what is happening. And we agreed with him – at our very first request, comprehensive assistance will be provided to ensure the security of the Republic of Belarus, “Lukashenko said at a meeting at the General Staff, Belta reports .
According to the Belarusian leader, he discussed the internal situation in the republic with Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone. The head of the Kremlin suggested that the problems of Belarus will soon be resolved.
During the dialogue, Lukashenka and Putin “reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening allied relations.”
As you know, the European Union announced its intentions to impose sanctions against persons “responsible for violence, repression and falsification of election results” in Belarus.
We remind that the media reported that people from the circle of President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko are preparing ways of retreat after the aggravation of the situation and bloody clashes in the country.
Finally here is Craig Murray weighing in
There is a misperception in western media that Lukashenko is Putin’s man. That is not true; Putin views him as an exasperating and rather dim legacy. There is also a misperception in the west that Lukashenko really lost the recent election. That is not true. He almost certainly won, though the margin is much exaggerated by the official result. Minsk is not Belarus, just as London is not the UK. Most of Belarus is pretty backward and heavily influenced by the state machinery. Dictators have all kinds of means at their disposal to make themselves popular. That is why the odd election or plebiscite does not mean that somebody is not a dictator. Lukashenko is a dictator, as I have been saying for nigh on twenty years.
My analysis is that Lukashenko probably won handily, with over 60% of the vote. But it was by no means a free and fair election. The media is heavily biased (remember you can also say that of the UK), and the weak opposition candidate was only there because, one way or the other, all the important opposition figures are prevented from standing.
The West is trying to engineer popular opinion in Belarus towards a “colour revolution”, fairly obviously. But they are on a sticky wicket. Western Ukraine was genuinely enthusiastic to move towards the west and the EU, in the hope of attaining a consumer lifestyle. Outside of central Minsk, there is very little such sentiment in Belarus. Most important of all, Belarus means “White Russia”, and the White Russians very strongly identify themselves as culturally Russian. We will not see a colour revolution in Belarus. The West is trying, however.
Unlike many of my readers, I see nothing outrageous in this. Attempting to influence the political direction of another country to your favour is a key aim of diplomacy, and always has been. I was a rather good exponent of it on behalf of the UK government for a couple of decades. The BBC World Service has always been FCO funded and its entire existence has been based on this attempt to influence, by pumping out propaganda in scores of languages, from its very inception. The British Council is not spending millions promoting British culture abroad from a pure love of Shakespeare. Government funding is given to NGO’s that aim to influence media and society. Future leaders are identified and brought on training and degree courses to wed them to pro-British sympathies.
I do not have any trouble with any of that. It is part of what diplomacy is. It is of course amusing when the British state works itself into a frenzy over Russia carrying out exactly the same type of activity that the British do on a much larger scale. But it is all part of an age old game. If I were Ambassador to Belarus now, I would have no moral qualms about turning up to support an anti-Lukashenko demo. It is all part of the job.
There is of course a murkier aspect of all this, where activities are hidden rather than open. The British state funded Integrity Initiative’s work in secretly paying foreign media journalists, or creating thousands of false social media identities to push a narrative (the latter also undertaken by MOD and GCHQ among others), is more dubious. So is MI6’s more traditional work of simply suborning politicians, civil servants and generals with large bundles of cash. But again, I can’t get too worked up about it. It is the dirtier end of the game, but time-honoured, with understood boundaries. Again, my major objection is when the UK gets ludicrously sanctimonious about Russia doing precisely what the UK does on a far larger scale.
But then we get into a far darker area, of assassinations, false flag shootings and bombings and false incrimination. Here a line is crossed, lives are destroyed and violent conflict precipitated. Here I am not prepared to say that time honoured international practice makes these acts acceptable. This line was crossed in the Ukraine; for reasons given above I do not think that the tinder exists to trigger the striking of such a spark in Belarus.
I should be very happy to see Lukashenko go. Term limits on the executive should be a factor in any decent democracy. Once you have the levers of power, it is not difficult to maintain personal popularity for many decades, barring external shock; popularity is not the same as democratic legitimacy. I should state very plainly, as I have before, that I think it was absolutely wrong of Putin to outstay his two terms, irrespective of constitutional sophistry and irrespective of popular support.
The ideal would be for Lukashenko to go and for there to be fresh elections, as opposed to the Venezuelan tactic of the West just announcing a President who has never won an election. The best result for the people of Belarus and for international stability would be the election of a reform minded but broadly pro-Russian candidate. Putin has used the crisis to re-assert the “union” of Russia and Belarus – signed 20 years ago this is a single market and free trade area. Few would doubt, crucially including few Belarussians, that the future of Belarus lies with integration with Russia rather than the EU.
History’s greatest criticism of Putin will be his failure to diversify the Russian economic base and move it from raw commodity exporter to high value added economy. His aims for Belarus will be to ensure it fits neatly with the template of massive commodity exports controlled by a tight knit and highly wealthy oligarchy. Putin will have no interest in the economic reforms Belarus needs.
My expectation is that Lukashenko will hang on, reorienting the economy back towards Russia. Putin’s long term policy goal has always been the reintegration into Russia of majority Russophone areas of the old USSR. That has been his policy in Ukraine and Georgia. Belarus is a major prize. He will seek to bind Belarus in tighter, probably through increased energy subsidy (Putin’s economic arsenal is very limited). Getting rid of Lukashenko is going to move up Putin’s to do list; I give it three years. The current demonstrations in Minsk have no major economic or social effect, and will pass.
P.s. Perhaps this should be factored in
Belarus: Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko flatly rejected the idea that his
country should lock down to “save” his nation from the coronavirus. Instead,
Belarus kept society completely open (well, for an authoritarian state, at least), and
became one of the few countries in the world to continue professional sports and
other events that involved large gatherings.
Lukashenko “suggested drinking vodka, going to saunas and driving tractors to fight
the virus,” Reuters reported in April.