AIn the twelve weeks of protest since the falsified presidential election in August, a lot has been used against peaceful demonstrators on the streets of Minsk: batons, water cannons, tear gas, noise and stun grenades, rubber bullets. But on Sunday, before the start of another protest march, armored vehicles with machine guns mounted were photographed for the first time in the Belarusian capital. This weapon was not used until evening. But the increasingly martial threats lie in the logic of the regime.
For example, dictator Aleksandr Lukashenka made a particularly drastic attempt at intimidation last Thursday. He assembled security officials, introduced a new interior minister, and awarded general titles. When addressing the demonstrators, he spoke of “red lines” that “for God’s sake no one should cross”. But “they”, the demonstrators, have crossed these lines many times.
Lukashenka cited attempts to “destroy and destabilize the infrastructure of the state” as examples, presented the protest movement again as a “color revolution”, as an attempted overthrow orchestrated by the West, threatened: “From today on, especially in the homes of citizens, where they hide , let’s not take prisoners. “
“We don’t intend to back down”
Lukashenka was apparently alluding to a recent case documented in the video, in which security forces acted with great brutality against demonstrators who were hiding in an apartment in Minsk. Anyone who touches a soldier, Lukashenka continued, “must at least walk away from there without hands. I say this publicly so that everyone understands our future determination. ”Next:“ We have nowhere to fall back, and we have no intention of falling back. ”
In fact, she appeared with renewed energy in the days after the end of the “popular ultimatum” of opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaya, who was exiled in Lithuania. Lukashenka had not declared his withdrawal within the deadline set by Tichanovskaya on October 25, had not ended the violence against peaceful demonstrators, and had not released the political prisoners. However, political advisor Vitali Shkliarov, an American citizen, arrested at the end of July, was allowed to leave Belarus. But since last Monday there have been work stoppages in several state-owned companies. It was not a mass phenomenon, not a general strike. But the result was remarkable given the regime’s extensive leverage.
No empty words
The regime responded with its means; Tichanovskaya had 85 workers last Friday who were reported to have been dismissed on strike. Protesting students were de-registered on Lukashenka’s orders. The behavior of the regime shows that these are not just empty words: At the end of the week Belarusians reported that they would not be able to return to their country from Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine and Latvia. The border guard spoke of temporary restrictions for certain people due to the corona pandemic. According to the news portal Tut.by, Belarusian students who study in Poland and wanted to go home were actually affected. Since Sunday, foreigners are officially only allowed to enter Belarus by land in exceptional cases, but continue to travel via Minsk Airport.
Despite everything, there was another demonstration in Belarus on Sunday. In Minsk, the march called “Ancestors March Against Terror” by the “Nexta” opposition medium had a highly symbolic goal that Monday before the “Day of Remembrance of the Ancestors”: Kurapaty. In the wooded area near Minsk, Stalin’s secret police NKVD shot and killed tens of thousands of Belarusians from 1937 to 1940 and buried them in mass graves.
Kurapaty is also a point of friction with Lukashenka’s regime, which had dozens of memorial crosses removed and 15 activists arrested there last year. Security forces wanted to stop the march and used noise and stun grenades. Human rights activists numbered more than a hundred arrested.