More people on the streets in Belarus, less violence. What will come after Lukashenko
A week after the presidential elections in Belarus, many thousands are protesting the rigged elections and unprecedented violence of the security forces. What can be expected to follow?
Is it possible to say that the days of President Alexander Lukashenko are numbered? What, in this case, will the future hold, and should we expect Russia to get involved?
Below, the opinions of experts and journalists.
What’s happened in Belarus in the past week
Despite the fact that more than seven thousand people were detained in Belarus and monstrous torture was used against them, in Minsk and other cities 20-50,000 people take to the streets every day.
On August 14, Minsk hosted the largest rally ever, about 20,000 people marched in a column to the Government House. For the first time, people were not dispersed, the special forces stood with their shields lowered to the ground, girls hugged policemen and gave them flowers.
Journalists say that several officials then collected all the bouquets and laid them at the monument to Lenin on the square.
Peaceful demonstrations took place in all cities of Belarus, even the smallest ones. About 30,000 people went to a rally in the city of Grodno.
The main demand is the resignation of President Alexander Lukashenko and the holding of new elections.
About 2,000 of the 7,000 detainees have been released. There is more and more evidence of torture in isolation wards.
On August 15, the deceased activist Alyaksandr Taraikovsky was buried in Minsk.
Dozens of huge state-owned factories, like private businesses, are on strike.
Workers of the largest enterprise in Belarus, the Minsk Tractor Plant, marched through the city on 14 August with posters “Not sheep, not cattle, not people. We are MTW employees, and we are not 20 people, but 16,000”.
Journalists of state channels and law enforcement officers are being fired.
Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya, whom the protesters consider to be the rightful winner of the elections, proposed to create a Coordination Council for the transfer of power.
She suggested that it should include respected people in the country and asked the international community to help organize the transition process.
The European Union continues to agree on sanctions against the Belarusian authorities, but it has already been announced that Europe does not recognize the results of the presidential elections in Belarus.
“What, you wanted change?” – torture and international investigation
There is more and more evidence of what is happening in isolation wards in Belarus.
Tut.by published frightening photos from a hospital in Minsk, taken with the permission of patients. People are outraged that forensic experts do not come to them to officially record the injuries and begin an investigation.
A girl wounded by a flash grenade during the dispersal of protests in Minsk. Photo: Тut.by
Activist from Russia Igor Rogov was diagnosed with a head injury.
Ruslan Kulevich, a journalist from Grodno, had both arms broken.
Belsat journalist Elena Dubovik was hospitalized with a ruptured ovary after being beaten for three days in an isolation ward in Minsk.
According to official figures, there are 150 people in hospitals.
Lukashenko has called protesters “alcoholics with lazy people” and has addressed Russian President Putin for help
On August 14, members of the European Parliament Robert Bedron and Petras Aushtrevicius were not allowed into Belarus. They wanted to meet with journalists and victims of the violence of the security forces.
On the same day, President Lukashenko accused “people from abroad” of organizing protests in Belarus.
“They came in large numbers from Poland, Holland, Ukraine, from this ‘Open Russia’, of Navalny,” Lukashenko said.
Lukashenko described the workers’ discontent as a “riot of 20 lazy people.”
90 criminal cases were opened for organizing mass riots, including against the founder of the popular telegram channel Nexta during the days of protests, Stepan Putilo.
He lives in Poland, and faces up to 15 years if he comes to Belarus.
And on August 15, Lukashenko announced that he would contact Putin about the protests in Belarus. He said that if the regime “does not survive” in his country, then the “wave will roll” over the entire space of the allied states.
As for the large number of photos and videos about the lawlessness of the security forces, he answered that these were staged shots and fakes.
What’s ahead? Analysis
Are Lukashenko’s days over?
“The escalation is over, and what is happening now is the beginning of the popular jubilation. Belarus, one might say, is seeing off Alexander Lukashenko,” political scientist Dmitry Bolkunets believes.
“It is clear that he will not go for a forceful scenario, he realized that this is not the scenario that the Belarusian society accepts … In the coming, I think, days, weeks, I hope this will happen, Lukashenko will be forced to leave his post, because he can no longer silence the crowd, get rid of it. People are tired of him, people want change.
“Lukashenka is no longer a leader who can consolidate the nation, there is no trust in him, he has completely lost his trust. I think that the most important thing, probably, in his life will be the act now – to resign,” the political scientist believes.
Russia won’t interfere until its interests in Belarus are affected
“Russia will intervene immediately if there is a threat to the Union State,” the author of the commentary on the popular analytical telegram channel Kremlin BezBashennik believes.
“The most unfavorable scenario for Moscow is if Lukashenko is overthrown according to the Ukrainian scenario. In this regard, the Belarusian authorities, indeed, constantly consult with their Russian colleagues, including on the need to ease pressure on the protesters.
“In case of further deterioration of the situation, Lukashenka may announce the full coordination of roadmaps for the integration of Belarus and Russia. After that the Union State will start a much closer dialogue, and Russia will take a more intensive part in the economic support of the population of Belarus.”
“The main thing for Russia now is to dissociate itself from Lukashenko as soon as possible. Stop speculation about the ‘fifth column’ and the intrigues of the West and join the negotiation process on the transfer of power in this country” said political analyst Dmitry Drize.
“The game is over for Lukashenka, he has lost”, said Russian political scientist Lilia Shevtsova.
In her opinion, Russia is not interested in supporting him:
“All that remains for him is to hope for Russia, which can throw him a life preserver or drown him.
“But why should Moscow need Lukashenko? First, financing his regime is a burden on the Russian budget. Second, by supporting the usurper, Moscow is unlikely to strengthen pro-Russian sentiments in Belarus. Third, the rescue of Lukashenko undermines Putin’s chances of normalizing relations with the West. Fourthly, the idea of the Union State will have to be told goodbye!
“Lukashenka will no longer be able to maintain stability in his country. Moscow will instead get a powder keg close by. The Kremlin must think about how to behave with a person who stole power and allows himself to bite the Kremlin’s hand. Weakened and brutalized Lukashenko, who has lost the support of the people, is a headache for Moscow.”