The Belarus Dilemma: For Minsk and the West
West in search of a new policy towards Minsk
While the US and EU are developing a new policy towards the Lukashenka regime, experts fear an increase in repression in Belarus
On Tuesday, August 11, it became known that Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the main opponent of Alexander Lukashenko, who became President of the country for the 6th time, left Belarus under pressure from the authorities..
At the same time, a video message was circulated in which she called for an end to the protests, stating that “the people of Belarus have made their choice”. Later, Tikhanovskaya published another video, saying that “no life is worth what is happening now” and “children are the most important thing in life.”.
The President of Lithuania, to which Svetlana Tikhanovskaya went, expressed the opinion that her video message, made before her departure, was recorded under pressure. In the telegram channel of Tikhanovskaya’s headquarters, a message also appeared later about the support of “everyone who protests against falsifications and fights for their rights in peaceful ways.”.
Despite the departure of Lukashenko’s main opposition rival, protests continue. As a result of the harsh crackdown by the authorities of the country of protests on Sunday and Monday, several thousand people were arrested, about two hundred were injured, one protester was killed..
The United States and the European Union condemned the violence by the Belarusian authorities. EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said in a statement on Tuesday that the EU will assess relations with Minsk, including “taking action against those responsible for the observed acts of violence, unjustified arrests and rigged election results.”.
The actions of the United States remain unclear, but the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau for European and Eurasian Affairs of the State Department George Kent (George Kent) did not rule out that Washington may resort to sanctions. The US State Department is considering the possibility of imposing personal sanctions on a number of persons, including the head of the CEC of Belarus and the head of the OMON, said a representative of the department also on Tuesday, August 11, during a web discussion on the situation in Belarus organized by the Atlantic Council of Washington.
“This is something that my colleagues and I will be discussing as an option in the coming days,” said George Kent, adding that unlike the European Union, the US has never lifted all sanctions. “In fact, there are still personal sanctions against President Lukashenko.”.
The spokesman for the US State Department also reiterated the official position of Washington, which condemns the undemocratic holding of elections in Belarus and the violence against protesters..
“We called on the Belarusian authorities to respect the right of all Belarusians to participate in peaceful assemblies. These are fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the founding acts of the OSCE, which Belarus signed, ”he said. “We condemn violence and detention, as well as restrictions on the Internet.”.
Nevertheless, the United States intends to continue developing relations and restoring full-fledged diplomatic ties with Minsk, including sending a US ambassador to Belarus after a 12-year break. If the US Senate approves Julie Fisher’s candidacy for the post of American ambassador to Belarus, then Washington plans to send its representative to Minsk “as soon as possible,” said George Kent. Despite what is happening today, it is critical to “keep the channels of dialogue open,” the State Department official also added. He agreed with the position of the Foreign Ministers of the Lublin Triangle countries – Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania – who condemned the actions of the Belarusian authorities, but expressed support for a dialogue to resolve the situation “for the benefit of the people and the state of Belarus”.
Natalia Kolyada, Director General of the Belarusian Free Theater, noted during the Atlantic Council web event that personal sanctions against Belarusian officials from the West are critical to support the people of the country. In the past, personal sanctions by the US and the EU have helped free hundreds of prisoners, she added..
The recorded video message from Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, in which she reads out an appeal to no longer participate in the protests, was recorded under threats after her whereabouts were unknown for several hours, the director of the Belarusian Free Theater emphasized..
She noted that she also faced threats against her family when, in 2010, the Belarusian authorities were looking for her daughter in her parents’ house to rent out an orphanage in order to exert pressure. “The same thing happened with another presidential candidate (Andrei Sannikov – Ed.) And his wife Irina Khalip, when the same pressure was exerted against their three-year-old son. The authorities are using the same tactics, ”she said..
Hanna Lyubakova, a journalist for the online edition Outriders, noted during a web event that today in Belarus there is a much greater degree of opposition to the Lukashenka regime than ever before. This is facilitated by the general fatigue of the population from Lukashenka’s rule, his inability to cope with the coronavirus epidemic and problems in the economy, and some enlightenment of people previously uninterested in politics that the elections were falsified. Despite the fact that Lukashenko has suppressed protests and turned off the Internet in the past, the level of brutality from the authorities has also reached a new level today..
“People will not forget this,” the journalist said. – Too many lines have been crossed. This is a completely different country “.
Belarusian journalist Franak Vyachorka, who is also vice-president of the Digital Communication Network and analyst of digital strategies at the United Stated Agency for Global Media, which is in charge of Voice of America, noted that the Belarusian authorities are blocking access to a number of information sites and social networks.
In particular, this happens in the evening, when the level of protests grows. The journalist believes that President Lukashenko will not enter into dialogue with the protesters and is more likely to intensify the repression. He also expressed his assessment that the protests in Belarus can continue without a clear leader. “People are self-organized,” he said. “They just need a common goal and common values that unite them.”.
According to Konstantin Eggert, a columnist for the German media company Deutsche Welle, the fall of the Lukashenka regime is a matter of time. “Lukashenka will fall because, in fact, he has the ability to withstand such hatred from his people,” the journalist said, also during an Atlantic Council web discussion. “It may not fall tomorrow, it may take some time, but it will happen.”.
However, Konstantin Eggert also expressed fears that the current leader of Belarus may intensify repression to retain his power..
Journalist «Voices of America». Prior to that, she worked for international non-governmental organizations in Washington and London, in the Russian-language version of the Estonian daily newspaper “Postimees” and as a spokesman for the Estonian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Interests – international relations, politics, economics