Tag Archive : Belarus

Belarus Russia EU: the 3 sides involved in the crisis.

Belarus Russia EU: The Long Road Ahead



A Brief Overview…

Belarus is politically gridlocked. Ever since Alexander Lukashenko was declared as the President for the 6th term on the 9th of August 2020 there have been massive protests against a series of human rights violations. Citizens demand free and fair elections and the ousting of Lukashenko. While protests were successfully suppressed in the past this time around citizens from all sections of the society have joined in across the country creating a united front. The chances of being able to suppress these protests by the use of force seem rather unlikely. However, the impact that Russia and the EU have on the crisis in Belarus is significant as we shall further examine.


Belarus is also geographically landlocked. One look at the map of Europe will reveal the significance of what many experts refer to as the ‘geopolitical factor’. Belarus is located between the European Union and Kaliningrad (Russian territory) on the left and Russia to its right. Over the years president Lukashenko has made use of this fact to further his agendas and hold onto power. Whenever Russia has pushed him for further integration of the two countries he has run to the EU promising to implement democratic reforms. Similarly whenever the EU has asked him to come good on his promises he has gone back to Putin for support.

As the protests in Belarus continue the EU has imposed sanctions on Lukashenko and many of his ministers. This has forced Lukashenko to seek support from Russia. Hence, it is now impossible for him to align himself with the West without actually ushering in significant changes. This brings an end to his long played act of balancing on a seesaw!


Belarus and Russia

Belarus Russia leaders meet in Moscow
Belarus and Russian leaders meet in Moscow. Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons

It is true that Russia remains the largest trade partner of Belarus. The Belarusian economy is heavily dependent on the cheap supply of oil and natural gas being provided by its neighbor. However, Russian interests go far beyond economics. Russia under Vladimir Putin harbors imperialist motives. It frequently attempts to put pressure on Lukashenko for the creation of the much talked about union state. In the past, Lukashenko had managed to stall Russian advances. However, deteriorating relations with the EU over the past couple of months has pushed Lukashenko into a position where he could agree to increased Russian control over Belarus.

Some defense experts also point to a specific geopolitical factor influencing relations between Russia and Belarus the so-called Suwalki corridor. It is a small zone lining the Polish-Lithuanian border. It separates northwest Belarus from the Russian territory of Kaliningrad. Russian control over Belarus could also prompt radical Russian imperials to think about the possibility of the military occupation of the Suwalki corridor. This will essentially separate the Baltic States from the rest of the EU.


Belarus and the EU

Belarus EU meeting in Austria
Belarus opposition leader meeting members of EU state. Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons

The European Union which closely monitors the situation in Belarus has extended support to the Belarusian citizens and opposition leaders. As reports came in of the elections being rigged the EU made it clear that it does not recognize Lukashenko as the lawful president of Belarus. It has urged authorities to hold fresh elections that would comply with international standards for free and fair elections. It has condemned the violent attacks by the Lukashenko regime on the protesters. EU member states have granted asylum to many Belarusian activists and opposition leaders. This includes Svetlana Tikhanovskaya who contested against Lukashenko and claims to be the winner of the elections. The heads of States of several EU Nations have met with Tikhanovskaya and expressed their support for the Belarusian cause.


Is there a way out of this deadlock?
  • Russia and the EU take a step back

Both Russia and the EU could refrain from getting further involved in Belarus. As the citizens have maintained they are not against Russia and that this fight is only to oust Lukashenko. The outcome of the revolution could then be left to the citizens to decide. However, given the strategic importance of Belarus, it is highly unlikely that either side will step back.

  • Russia to accept a Democratic Belarus

So far there has not been any anti-Russian protest in Belarus. However, if Russia continues to support Lukashenko it could lead to anger against Putin. The on-going COVID-19 pandemic has already led to a slowdown in the Russian economy. This, compounded by Putin’s own authoritarian rule could mobilize sentiments against him in Russia. This does put Russia in a spot where it could have to accept a democratic outcome in Belarus.

  • Russia and EU reach an agreement

The only way that a win-win solution can be found to the crisis in Belarus is for backchannel talks to be initiated between Moscow and the EU.  If Russia can be persuaded to reach an agreement by using other diplomatic means it could ensure that the interests of Belarus, Russia, and the EU are met.
 

Finally, whatever approaches are being considered to help Belarus, the one and only demand of the Belarusian citizens must always be kept in mind – An Independent, Democratic Republic of Belarus!

Alexander_Lukashenko_2020-09-14

Top 5 Human Rights Violations in Belarus


Human Rights Violations in Belarus have constantly been highlighted since Alexander Lukashenko it’s first and only President took the oath on to the 20th of April 1994, over 26 years ago.


He assumed almost absolute power in 1995 through a referendum, which dismissed the Supreme Soviet of Belarus, the highest decision-making body in the country.

The Soviet-era strongman has ruled Belarus ever since with an iron fist and is accused of a series of human rights violations which led to him being referred to as “Europe’s Last Dictator”.


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 1. LACK OF FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS

Citizens protest against the Human Rights Violations in Belarus under President Lukashenko.
Protests erupt in Belarus after Lukashenko was declared President for the 6th consecutive term


The Belarusian Presidential elections have constantly been under the scanner with many in the West claiming that they were rigged & that it failed to meet the international standards for a free and fair democratic process.


In September 2016, based on the observations of several human rights activists The Organization for Security & Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) reported several election violations. The lack of equal access to state media for all candidates was the primary problem. The other violations included partiality of election commissions, the abuse of administrative resources in favor of the pro-government candidates, forcing voters to vote early, and the non-transparency of some election procedures for observers.


The recent elections held in August 2020 were also marred by the allegations of widespread electoral fraud. President Lukashenko was sworn in for the 6th term in a secret ceremony after he claimed to have won 80% of the votes. The re-election of Lukashenko has triggered countrywide protests ever since.


2. TARGETING OPPOSITION LEADERS

Key opposition figures like Yury Zacharanka and Viktar Hanchar disappeared after Lukashenko assumed power in 1994. According to some reports they were abducted and were probably killed.


The story of elections in Belarus has remained the same over the decades with opposition leaders either being barred from contesting, jailed on false charges, or being forced to leave the country.


The elections of August 2020 were no different with 2 candidates being denied ( Viktar Babaryka, Valery Tsepkalo ) and a 3rd being imprisoned ( Siarhei Tsikhanouski ). Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the wife of Siarhei, then decided to take over her husband’s campaign. She was supported by two other women ( Maria Kolesnikova, and Veronika Tsepkalo ). However, widespread protests erupted across the country after the election results were announced in favor of the incumbent President. In an attempt to try and suppress these protests Kolesnikova was imprisoned while Svetlana and Veronika were forced to flee to neighboring Lithuania and Poland respectively.




3. MEDIA CENSORSHIP
 

Freedom of the press in Belarus is extremely restricted. State-owned channels are under the control of the government.


Foreign media and independent journalists are regularly intimidated for being critical of the government.


Journalists are harassed, detained, and forced to give up their information. Even websites have to be registered with the government or face blockage. The Internet is regularly turned off.


With increasing restrictions to press freedom many are shifting to radio to report the news to the people of Belarus.


 

4. CRACKDOWN ON PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

Belarus Police force blocking a protest march in Minsk, September 2020

 

The peaceful gatherings of citizens to protest against strongman Lukashenko has been dealt with very severely with the police detaining hundreds of people.


Several news agencies have also reported the use of water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets to try and disperse the swelling crowds.


The police have also started tracing individual protesters and arresting them from their homes.

 

5. CAPTURE OF THE JUDICIARY
 

The President exercises control over the Judiciary. The powers to appoint and transfer judges rest with the government.


The salaries and accommodation of the judges are in the hands of the executive. Thus they constantly find themselves under pressure to deliver verdicts in favor of the government.


Courts have also been found to delay or avoid cases related to electoral fraud or other human rights issues. Thus, justice to citizens is almost non-existent.  



SEE: Venezuelan dictator and the worst human rights violations

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