Vitali Shkliarov: Local Politics and Global Issues
Political scientists demanded the release of Vitaly Shklyarov
Shklyarov, a political scientist who worked with Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders, was detained in Belarus during a visit to his mother
Russian political scientists have launched a campaign in defense of Vitaly Shklyarov, who was arrested in Belarus. A US-based political scientist who worked for the Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders campaigns was arrested while visiting a mother suffering from cancer. The arrest of a political scientist shocked the professional community.
The open letter, prepared by the Professional Association of Political Consultants (PAPK), was signed by well-known Russian journalists and political scientists. One of the authors of the appeal, leader of the New Russia movement Alina Zhestovskaya told “Voice of America” that “the letter is addressed to interstate organizations and unions, which include the Republic of Belarus”.
Shklyarov is a citizen of Belarus residing in the United States. In the States, he worked on Democratic campaigns Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders, while in Russia he has consulted many opposition politicians, including a presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak.
“Shklyarov, my friend, went home to his parents. He is detained there, because he is a well-known consultant, works a lot with the opposition, does not live in Belarus and, apparently, according to the authorities of the republic, is some kind of foreign agent, says Zhestovskaya. – Well, this is nonsense! Whoever he was by occupation! Vitalik did not work on this campaign. And he did not conduct any, let alone illegal activities “.
Sources of the Voice of America, surrounded by Shklyarov, said that he went to Belarus to visit his mother suffering from cancer, and also to take his son there for the summer holidays. After which he planned to immediately go to Moscow, and then to Kiev. However, upon arrival in Belarus, he was immediately put into home quarantine, and on July 29 he was arrested..
The political scientist’s entourage emphasizes that the arrest shocked even seasoned oppositionists – after all, the latter has not lived in Belarus for a long time, and has not worked for candidates during the current presidential campaign.
Even the pro-government Belarusian media could not explain the arrest. According to Belarusian TV, “Shklyarov will have to explain why he gathered around blogger Sergei Tikhanovsky, who intended to run for president, a protest electorate.”.
In fact, the media claim that the political strategist is charged with attempts to increase political competition in Belarus, that is, the reason for the arrest was exclusively his profession, follows from an open letter in support of Shklyarov.
Lukashenka may try to postpone elections
Even his closest friends do not have a connection with Vitaly Shklyarov now. The arrest took place on July 29 – on the same day it became known about the detention of 33 people in Belarus, whom Belarusian officials called fighters of the PMC “Wagner”, who allegedly arrived from Russia “to destabilize the situation during the election campaign.”.
According to the experts interviewed by Voice of America, the Belarusian authorities started to panic. “The feeling is that Lukashenka is taking Russians hostage in order to rein in Putin and stage an attempted coup in Belarus in order to raise his rating,” says an expert at the Center for European Policy Analysis and a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University. Maria Snegovaya (Maria Snegovaya, CEPA, Johns Hopkins University).
“Probably, Vitaly Shklyarov was also detained in order to put on a play about“ external interference ”in front of the population of Belarus,” Alina Zhestovskaya believes. Voice of America sources claim that Lukashenka may need the version of allegedly foreign intervention and preparation for riots if he realizes that even large-scale falsifications will not ensure his victory. Allegedly, measures are being considered up to the postponement of the date of the presidential elections, scheduled for August 9.
“Shklyarov“ fell under the arm ”of the Belarusian authorities. He was detained just in case – after all, he is the most popular political strategist, and he has repeatedly written that Lukashenka has a 3% rating, “the opposition politician told Voice of America. Dmitry Gudkov, for the campaign for whom Vitaly Shklyarov worked. “His arrest is an attempt to intimidate all the other political strategists, and” stitch “everything into one thing to form a puzzle of” foreign interference “,” Gudkov is convinced..
“Lukashenka’s opponents are protégés of the West, East and Martians”
Earlier, law enforcement agencies of Belarus opened a number of criminal cases against the politicians who tried to run for the presidency of Belarus – Sergei Tikhanovsky, Nikolai Statkevich and Viktor Babariko. All of them are in custody. Recently, Tikhanovsky and Statkevich were also accused of trying to organize mass riots. As many thousands of rallies of Lukashenka’s opponents continue to gather in Belarus, he used the only remaining trump card – a version of an attempt to take over the country from outside..
“It is beneficial for Lukashenka to emphasize foreign influence on elections,” opposition politician told Voice of America Ilya Ponomarev. – He is trying to show the Belarusian voters that he allegedly protects the situation in the country. And his opponents are henchmen of the West, the East, and even the Martians. In the case of PMC Wagner, he nods at Russia, and in the case of Vitaly Shklyarov, he can nod to the West. “.
At the same time, it is very difficult to predict how long Shklyarov and other political prisoners will sit in custody, says Ponomarev: “They will definitely be in prison until the elections. And after the elections, everything will very much depend on how these elections are held. Unfortunately, there were examples in Belarus when innocent people sat for a long time even after the elections. “.
Journalist, on "Voice of America" since 2019. In 2011-2018 he worked as a political observer in the department of politics "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" in Moscow. Winner of the American Hubert Humphrey Fellowship in Journalism. Trained at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
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