Outraged people took to the streets after news of the death of activist Roman Bondarenko
Spontaneous protests were held in various cities of Belarus yesterday after the news of the death of the brutally beaten 31-year-old Roman Bondarenko in the intensive care unit in Minsk, media reported.
He suffered a head injury during a conflict with unidentified men in civilian clothes and in masks who came to remove ribbons with opposition symbols.
The same people, according to the testimony of witnesses, loaded Roman into a car and drove away. According to media reports, during the suppression of the protests, the Belarusian security forces began to act in civilian clothes, trying to camouflage their affiliation with state structures..
Also on Thursday in Minsk, journalist of the Belarusian Service of Radio Liberty, Oleg Gruzdilovich, was arrested for 15 days, accused of participating in an unsanctioned mass event, which he covered due to his professional duties..
The actions of the Belarusian authorities are outraged by the wider world community, which demands an end to the repressions. On Thursday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for the immediate release of political prisoners in Belarus.
“The US condemns the continued detention of political prisoners in Belarus,” the Secretary of State said. – Currently, more than 100 political prisoners are being held in custody as they exercised their human rights and fundamental freedoms by peacefully participating in protests, calling for free and fair elections and advocating for national dialogue to end the ongoing crisis. These political prisoners are subjected to ill-treatment and are being held in life-threatening conditions. Among other things, there were credible reports of torture. They are among the thousands of people unjustly detained since the violent crackdown on protests began. “.
“The United States supports those who remain in custody and missing, those who have been killed, and those who continue to peacefully assert their right to choose their leaders in free and fair elections. We once again call on the Belarusian authorities to immediately stop the escalation of violence against peaceful demonstrators, release all political prisoners and other peaceful demonstrators and enter into a constructive dialogue with the Coordination Council and the Belarusian civil society, ”Pompeo summed up.
Dmitry Bolkunets: “The government uses particularly harsh methods”
Belarusian political scientist Dmitry Bolkunets, assessing the situation in Belarus, believes that the protest potential in the republic has stabilized. In his opinion, due to weather conditions and other reasons, the protests are not as massive as they were at the beginning..
“On the other hand, the authorities are using particularly harsh methods (when dispersing peaceful actions),” added an interlocutor of the Russian service of the Voice of America. – So, last Sunday there were many victims. “.
The authorities are also trying to conduct a dialogue, but this does not in any way look like a discussion, the political scientist stated. By his definition, this is a “pseudo-dialogue”.
“Lukashenka now has no support for the electorate, and he is trying, by creating the appearance of a dialogue, to demonstrate an attempt to invite the opposition to an allegedly constructive discussion of the problem,” he says. – But so far he has not succeeded. It seems that in the near future we will witness the creation by the authorities of some “round tables” of a nationwide scale, but the opposition will not participate in these discussions due to the fact that Lukashenka does not release political prisoners and other issues. “.
Economic problems leave their mark on the situation, Dmitry Bolkunets noted: “The credit line to Minsk has been closed, personal sanctions are being imposed against Alexander Lukashenko and his associates. I think Lukashenka, out of habit, hopes that everything will resolve by itself and will play for time. “.
It is difficult to predict how soon the situation will be resolved, the political scientist summed up.
Igor Klyamkin: “Lukashenka is also trying to create the appearance of a dialogue between the authorities and various social forces”
In turn, the director of the Institute for Sociological Analysis, vice-president of the Liberal Mission Foundation, Igor Klyamkin, explains the situation by the fact that the Lukashenka regime, supported by the Kremlin, wants to carry out constitutional reform and at the same time avoid new elections in the near future. For this, according to the political scientist, Lukashenka needs to free the streets from opposition movements..
“Therefore, he is tightening the pressure on the protesters, resorting to forceful actions, converting administrative punishments into criminal ones,” he stressed in an interview with the Voice of America. – The number of detainees was already large enough, and recently it has increased even more. So far, this has not led Minsk to the desired result. Nevertheless, some decrease in protest is observed “.
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According to the human rights center “Viasna”, since the beginning of the presidential campaign in Belarus, more than 900 criminal cases have been opened and over 16 thousand citizens participating in peaceful protests have been detained..
Igor Klyamkina believes that Lukashenka is also trying to create the appearance of a dialogue between the authorities and various social forces. In his opinion, this is in demand so that the conceived constitutional procedure looks more or less legitimate..
“The opposition, whose representatives have been partially imprisoned or expelled abroad, proceeds from the premise that a dialogue can only be about the transfer of power and early elections,” he said. – Lukashenka does not agree to such a dialogue and creates a quasi-opposition. With its help, the authorities want to create a kind of round table with the participation of allegedly different social forces. But this is a complete fiction “.
At the same time, Moscow, Director of the Institute for Sociological Analysis, Vice President of the Liberal Mission Foundation, is confident that Moscow is not going to surrender Lukashenko..
“This does not mean that she made a long-term bet on him. Most likely, the Kremlin is determined to replace him with a constitutional amendment on new elections. The problem is in the candidate that suits Moscow. Obviously, now they are urgently looking for the right person. In addition, the Russian leadership has a principled directive: a street change of power (in Belarus), as they put it, must not be allowed. “.
Therefore, no matter how the West puts pressure on Lukashenka, Moscow will save him, concluded Igor Klyamkin.