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From Belarus With Love — Part VII: The Post-Election Crackdown

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:34 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Series parts:

  1. From Belarus With Love — Part I: Schizophrenic EPO Policy
  2. From Belarus With Love — Part II: “Techwashing” an Autocratic Regime?
  3. From Belarus With Love — Part III: Apps From the Dictatorship
  4. From Belarus With Love — Part IV: “Software from Minsk” via Gilching and Rijswijk
  5. From Belarus With Love — Part V: From Start-Up to Success Story…
  6. From Belarus With Love — Part VI: “Big Daddy” Hammers the Opposition…
  7. YOU ARE HERE ☞ The Post-Election Crackdown

Lukashenko crackdown
Lukashenko’s disputed election “victory” in August 2020 was followed by an unprecedented wave of public protest and a brutal crackdown as police attacked protesters with water cannons, tear gas and stun grenades.

Summary: A look back at Lukashenko’s disputed election “victory” in August 2020; the relevance to the EPO with unelected (rigged process) dictators like Benoît Battistelli and António Campinos shall become more apparent later

Following the Belarus Presidential election on 9 August 2020, Lukashenko was proclaimed the victor. According to the state Central Election Commission, he received 80% of the popular vote.

“An unprecedented wave of public protest followed, as hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens took to the streets to demand that Lukashenko step aside and that a fresh election be held.”But Lukashenko’s “victory” was disputed both by the domestic opposition and by international observers and it was widely considered to be fraudulent. The official claim that he had received 80% of the vote was rejected by many observers as implausible because of the high level of discontent with his regime.

The EU issued a statement criticising the election as “neither free nor fair” and refusing to recognise what it called the “falsified results”. The official position of the EU was that “the so-called ‘inauguration’ of 23 September 2020 and the new mandate claimed by Aleksandr Lukashenko lack any democratic legitimacy”. [Note: he is known also as Alyaksand(a)r Ryhoravich Lukashenka. Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko is more common.]

“The protests were met with a brutal crackdown by the authorities, as Belarusian police and military attacked protesters with water cannons, tear gas and stun grenades.”An unprecedented wave of public protest followed, as hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens took to the streets to demand that Lukashenko step aside and that a fresh election be held.

The protests were met with a brutal crackdown by the authorities, as Belarusian police and military attacked protesters with water cannons, tear gas and stun grenades. It is estimated that more than 35,000 protestors were arrested and thousands brutally beaten, with more than 4,000 claiming to have been tortured, according to Nash Dom, a Belarusian NGO.

Okrestina Detention Centre
The notorious Okrestina Detention Centre in Minsk where anti-Lukashenko protestors are reported to have been tortured by Belarusian security forces.

Meanwhile, Lukashenko’s ally and “controller” in Moscow, Vladimir Putin, offered financial and military support to help him crush the protests. Putin also warned foreign powers not to interfere in the “internal affairs” of Belarus. The promise of Russian assistance bolstered Lukashenko’s confidence and his sense of impunity.

“The promise of Russian assistance bolstered Lukashenko’s confidence and his sense of impunity.”The rest of the world watched as “Batka” proceeded to cracked down ever harder on his opponents – and it didn’t do much about it. Although the US and EU initiated various sanctions, it is generally agreed that these measures had very little impact on the regime.

The protests continued throughout the autumn and winter and into the early part of 2021, but the unmitigated brutality of police and security forces meant that the opposition was eventually driven underground – or into exile. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya – considered by many to be the true victor of the election – was forced to seek refuge in Lithuania.

Belarusian military
Belarusian military deployed to suppress protests following the 2020 Presidential elections.

Emboldened by support from Moscow, Lukashenko even dared to target “dissidents” who had gone into exile abroad. On 23 May 2021, Belarus fighter jets forced a commercial flight en route from Athens to Vilnius (Lithuania) to land in Minsk so that security services could arrest émigré activist and journalist Roman Pratasevich. Pratasevich, who was living in exile in Poland, was a wanted man in his home country because he was a key figure behind the popular opposition channel Nexta.

Roman Pratasevich
Activist and journalist Roman Pratasevich arrested by Belarusian security forces in May 2021 after fighter jets forced a flight en route from Athens to Vilnius to land in Minsk.

In the upcoming parts we will see how the Belarus IT sector came to play a significant role in the events of 2020.

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