Today marks the 100th day of the nationwide protests that have rocked the country of Belarus since they erupted on 9th August. The country’s largest and longest anti-political protests against President Alexander Lukashenko and the government began leading up-to and during the 2020 elections, where-in Lukashenko claimed victory with 80% of the vote despite the national sentiment being starkly against him. The questionable victory has subsequently led to allegations of voter fraud and poll rigging, which incited the protests.
The 2020 presidential elections marked the 26th year of Lukashenko being in power, who chose to ignore the opposition’s demand for his resignation, going on to declare that he has “no intention of retiring ”. Keeping true to his word the President has shown no sign of backing down, unleashing the might of his vengeance on the protestors through an extremely violent police crackdown.
Protestors recount stories of brutal beating, detentions, torture and even rape at the hand of the Belarusian security forces that have been filmed on multiple accounts bashing and detaining peaceful protestors such as Roman Bondarenko, a protestor who was allegedly beaten to death by plainclothed officers in the capital. The death of the 31-year-old artist has added fuel to the fire raging on the streets of the Belarusian nation.
Bondarenko’s sister Volga Kucharenka posted a video on Thursday stating that Roman was either beaten at the central police department or on the way there. Bondarenko was taken to the hospital from Mink’s central police department where he died succumbing to severe head injuries. “Tonight I have found out that my brother has died in the hospital after being the whole day in the intensive care room,” Kucharenka said in the video with tears streaming down her face.
On the other hand, President Alexander Lukashenko has praised the security forces who help keep him in power and the government has chosen to swiftly wash its hands of Bondarenko’s death, stating that his injuries were caused due to a street fight between Anti-government protestors and government supporters.
The death of Roman Bondarenko, Lukashenko’s pomposity and the government’s upper ignorance have further enraged the thousands of protestors lining the streets of Mink and have shown no signs of backing up. A local Ngo Viasna has reported the arrest of over 1,200 individuals amid the mass protests, pictures of officers in helmets and body armours mercilessly beating the disabled and women holding flowers, officers tear-gassing the elderly on a pension march.
The international reaction to the Belarus blunder
The reactions to Lukashenko winning the elections has been as polarised as the situation in Belarus. While fellow autocratic countries like China, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Russia and Kazakhstan were quick to congratulate the President on his win, the response from the US post his victory was of near-silence as then-president Donald Trump made no public statement on Lukashenko’s self-proclaimed victory.
The European Union has now openly criticised the elections and refused to recognise the result of the elections, finally slapping sanctions on Lukashenko and his Son Viktor, blacklisting the father-son duo and another 13 members of the government, consecutively giving the green signal to freeze all assets and ban visas of the sanctioned individuals on 4th November.
- Council Implementing Decision (CFSP) 2020/1650 implementing Decision concerning restrictive measures against Belarus.
Russia, on the other hand, has promised $1.5 billion loans to the president and expressed its support in providing the alleged president with any military assistance if necessary. Being one the firsts to congratulate Lukashenko on this victory, Putin has gone on to warn the west from interjecting in Belarus’s internal affairs.
With Lukashenko and his electors standing at loggerheads, the nation of Belarus seems to be in a Stalemate. The situation has left us with fundamental Issues that make us question the very fabric of contemporary politics. Is autocracy relevant in present-day politics? why are the flag bearers of democracy and human rights choosing to stay mum in the case of Belarus? And how are nations like Russia and China choosing to openly support a ruler as brutish and power-hungry as Lenkashenko without facing any backlash from within their own sovereign states?
The world is watching in awe as a nation and its people struggle in what can be termed as a modern-day freedom struggle. The only thing now left to do is not give up or back down because when injustice becomes the law, resistance becomes a civic duty.