Belarus police fire stun grenades as 100,000 protest
Prospects for a popular ultimatum in Belarus
Experts do not expect an instant change of Lukashenka’s regime, but the protest potential in the Republic of Belarus is highly rated
On the night of October 25-26, the term of the ultimatum expired, which Svetlana Tikhanovskaya announced to Alexander Lukashenko and his entourage. None of the requirements – on the voluntary resignation of Lukashenka, the end of violence against peaceful demonstrators and the release of political prisoners – not fulfilled.
On Sunday, mass protests took place in many cities of Belarus again. According to independent observers, more than a hundred thousand people gathered for the march in Minsk alone. Law enforcement officers again used special equipment against demonstrators – rubber bullets and stun grenades. Not without harsh detentions.
Belarusian and Russian experts shared with the Russian service «Voices of America» their vision of the development of the situation.
Vladimir Nyaklyaeu: «The security forces understand that they have nowhere to retreat, and that they will have to answer»
Famous Belarusian poet and politician, co-chairman of the Belarusian National Congress Vladimir Nyaklyaev in a telephone conversation with a correspondent of the Russian Service «Voices of America» testified: «I am now in Minsk and I can say that many students are on strike here. They have different forms of strikes – Someone is sedentary, someone – in a procession format. Moreover, students of secondary educational institutions also adjoin the processions. – schools and gymnasiums».
«As for the strikes at the enterprises, the blacksmith shop and a couple of other workshops are on strike at the tractor plant.», – notes Nyaklyaeu. And it is stipulated that there is no general strike at large enterprises yet, but the general tendency to openly express dissatisfaction with Alexander Lukashenko is becoming more and more pronounced.. «In Grodno, – says Nyaklyaeu, – at the nitrogen plant, a strike committee was assembled, and the management of the enterprise, under pressure from the city and regional administration, summoned riot police to simply drive the workers to their places. But they stay there; ordinary townspeople help them, bring food».
«In general, real help to the strikers could become a very important point. Here they are (members of the Coordination Council – A.P.) tell the workers: “Do not be afraid of anything, what you do not earn will be compensated for.”, but so far this mechanism has not been activated, but people have families and children. But I will say that before such a scale of protest could not have been imagined. And what is happening today – this is a serious warning about a possible general strike», – states the politician.
In his opinion, the Sunday behavior of representatives of power structures during the dispersal of the march on Orlovskaya Street in Minsk added the determination to continue the struggle for the protesters. «Almost the same methods were used there as in the early days of the protest. – flash and noise grenades, shooting at unarmed people with rubber bullets, and so on. People received shrapnel wounds, and so that information about what happened did not spread, the victims were taken to a military hospital, where doctors took a vow of silence. – who was brought to them and what kind of injuries these people have», – says the interlocutor «Voices of America».
The most adequate decision on the part of Lukashenka and the security forces would be to allow the participants of the October 25 rally to disperse peacefully after the end of the rally, Nyaklyaeu believes.. «But I know him well (Lukashenka – A.P.) character and I see that he just wants to take revenge on those who do not recognize him, who marches with the slogan “Go away!”. it – revenge of a sick person, and it is difficult to do anything about it. And the security officials understand that they have nowhere to retreat and that one way or another they will have to answer. The most difficult situation is developing», – he explains.
Pavel Usov: «Media attention is focused on what is happening in Minsk»
The head of the Center for Political Analysis and Forecasts, Doctor of Political Sciences Pavel Usov believes that the protest potential in Belarus is high, but it is concentrated mainly in the capital of the country.. «And this, – explains Usov, – applies to all segments of the population, including retirees and workers. We see in Minsk the activation of students, which is very important, because earlier students were one of the most passive categories of society, but now this situation has changed dramatically. And the readiness of workers to join protest actions, and more and more representatives of the stratum traditionally considered pro-Lukashenka go to the marches of pensioners on Mondays».
«At the national level, – continues the political scientist, – then here we do not observe the activation of the population, with the exception of certain cities, including Grodno. But in other regional centers, readiness for protests, especially – to strikes extremely low».
Usov clarifies: «I think this is due to several reasons. Including – with the fact that the main concentration of the protest population is now in Minsk, which has become a concentration of events and the main center of confrontation. Second moment – absence in the regions of the infrastructure of action, which could lead here to the mobilization of the population. And very tough actions of the security forces in relation to regional protests. I think that the authorities initially took action to crush the protests in the regions, to concentrate their actions in Minsk, and so that the situation here does not get out of control.».
As a result, the actions of the security forces in the periphery are even tougher than in the capital – the interlocutor considers «Voices of America». And gives an example: «Recently, courts were held in Molodechno, as a result of which people who participated in clashes with the police were given five – eight years (imprisonment). And it practically stayed in the background».
Summing up his comment, the expert notes: «In Minsk, due to the fact that the situation is electrified, and public activity is much higher, and the attention of the media is focused on what is happening here. And we see that even national symbols are most of all present at the actions in Minsk. And although elements of national revival are present in the regions, unfortunately, we do not observe such a level of self-organization and self-coordination there.».
Arseny Sivitsky: «Moods for a change of Lukashenka’s regime in Belarusian society tend to expand»
Arseniy Sivitsky, director of the Center for Strategic and Foreign Policy Studies, is more optimistic. He believes that the announced Svetlana Tikhanovskaya «popular ultimatum» gave new impetus to protests in Belarus. «The current actions, in comparison with the previous weeks, were more massive. And from this point of view, Tikhanovskaya was able to mobilize her supporters, unlike the Belarusian authorities, who were forced to refuse to hold their own mass rally in support of Alexander Lukashenko due to their inability to hold such an event.», – Sivitsky said in an interview with the correspondent of the Russian Service «Voices of America».
The analyst emphasizes: no one expected that Lukashenka would fulfill the requirements «popular ultimatum». «We observed harsh crackdowns by the Belarusian security forces of people who had already left the rallies, and this underlines that Lukashenka is not going to make any concessions and intends to continue repressions against the participants in street protests. That the very next day created conditions for the support of the protests by the supporters of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya», – notes Sivitsky. Noting that from the very morning of October 26, the scattered and not too numerous actions of the strikers, nevertheless, united workers of large state-owned enterprises, and employees of many private companies, and students and pensioners..
«Of course, no one expected that today’s strike would acquire a nationwide, massive character. But also the events of Sunday – march of supporters “popular ultimatum”, and today’s strike supported the protest trend and showed that the mood for a change in Lukashenka’s regime not only persists in the Belarusian society, but tends to expand. And I would predict their further growth as the socio-economic situation in the country worsens. At the end of this year – at the beginning of the next Belarus will face a serious economic crisis, which will certainly give an impetus to protest sentiments», – emphasizes Sivitsky.
The political scientist is convinced: sporadic and scattered actions may well «convert into a nationwide protest», as a result, political demands will be complemented by socio-economic ones. And these requirements will be voiced by more and more new groups of the population of the Republic of Belarus, the source believes. «Voices of America».
Ilya Shablinsky: «All conversations of Lukashenka and his lawyers about constitutional reform – dirty trick»
There is no doubt that the protesters express the opinion of the overwhelming majority of Belarusians, said Ilya Shablinsky, Deputy Head of the Department of Constitutional and Municipal Law at the Higher School of Economics. According to his observations, all independent observers and analysts are inclined to this conclusion..
«It is still appropriate to recall with what gross violations the presidential elections were held, which gave every reason to believe that the figures announced by Lukashenka are falsifications, but in fact Svetlana Tikhanovskaya won, – clarified Shablinsky. – Now the protesters are demonstrating all possible peaceful methods of influencing the government by the majority, but they do not work. This is the drama of what is happening».
At the same time, it is not known what scale the strike that has begun and what consequences this will lead to, the expert continues. In mid-August, the largest enterprises of the republic had already stopped work, but this did not lead to a change in the status quo, Shablinsky recalled: «The question arises: what to do if the dictator does not leave, keeping around him a certain small layer of armed people who are ready to use force when the regime is kept solely on fear? We have not encountered anything like this before. In neighboring Poland, for example, actions of a similar scale led to a national dialogue, when the parties began to negotiate with each other. And here no. Of course, all the talk of Lukashenka and his lawyers about constitutional reform – this is a vulgar trick. The people demand the departure of the dictator, and not fiddle with constitutional texts».
At the same time, Shablinsky believes that the strike could be quite large-scale. He also agrees that the popular ultimatum announced by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya was a correct and timely step, because it was necessary to bring dynamics to the protest process..
Igor Chubais – about Alexander Lukashenko: «This is a political corpse»
Professor of the Moscow Economic Institute, Doctor of Philosophy Igor Chubais notes that the crisis in Belarus is not resolving, but, on the contrary, is escalating. In his opinion, civil protest and peaceful revolution in the republic are becoming stronger.
«And Lukashenka has exhausted his possibilities, – states the professor. – This is a political corpse, to put it bluntly. His mission has lost all meaning. He cannot lead a country that does not hear him and does not want to hear him. Despite constant threats, harassment, beatings and arrests, hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets and claim that Lukashenka must leave.».
Lukashenka has lost all legitimacy and is unable to mobilize any significant public forces to defend his regime, Igor Chubais stressed. According to him, the nominal head of state relies exclusively on security officials and state officials, who, in turn, have power «slips out of hand».
According to Igor Chubais, Tikhanovskaya’s announcement of the people’s ultimatum was the right step, although so far it has not brought a cardinal change in the balance of power..
«Call for strike – this, from the point of view of the constitution and civil rights, is a completely legal way of expressing the will of people, – added professor. – But how everything will go is still difficult to say. In the near future we will find out how many Belarusians will go on strike. Success depends on how large the protest is. The more widespread it becomes, the more irreversible it will be.».
Lukashenka is fanatical and will seize power to the last, but still will not sit in his chair, since the situation is a dead end for him, Ihor Chubais is sure.
«And the Kremlin’s orthodox position will lead to the collapse of the regime, – sure he. – Given that Belarus could well follow the Finnish path: to become a free and democratic country adhering to neutrality in foreign policy. But it seems that this option is not at all acceptable for Moscow. Then something else awaits her. At one time (Viktor) Yanukovych (President of Ukraine – V.V.) received a three billion dollar loan and soon fled the country. Lukashenka received 1.5 billion, and the same will happen to him».
This will be the best illustration of Moscow’s imperial strategy, Igor Chubais believes..