Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s regime is maintaining control through large-scale repression, with reports of the regime killing or putting them behind bars for , as well as lower level fines and arrests of people simply for wearing red and white or flying the flag of which features the same colors as the Belarusian protest movement, notes Chatham House expert Ryhor Astapenia.
His regime has been able to withstand the protests for three main reasons, he contends:
- First, Lukashenka has kept the ruling class united, partly by involving them and the security services in his attempts to remain in power. In fact, security services now seem prepared to do almost anything as their own survival hinges on Lukashenka staying in power. Recent reports highlighted leaked audio recordings of Belarusian security agents discussing plans to murder oppositional activists as well as kill protesters, and create prison for dissidents….The desire to purge the whole political structure for the sake of Belarus’s future is understandable but, in practice, the democratic forces’ inability to deal with the ruling class as the ranks have closed around Lukashenka only cements the regime….
The second reason the revolution is in stasis is – as so often is the case – the democratic movement has failed to galvanize the full spectrum of people who are dissatisfied with Lukashenka. The ‘hardcore’ protesters identified in our recent survey, comprising around 37 per cent of city dwellers, fully support the protest movement and the demands of its leaders. Most have taken part in various forms of dissent such as attending marches or writing collective letters. But another group from the survey – defined as more passive ‘observers’ and made up of around 45 per cent of urban Belarusians – do not have the same affinity towards the white-red-white flag of protest, nor have they risked taking to the streets in protest…..
The third reason Lukashenka has managed to hold on to power and continue repressing the population for so long is the position of international actors, who largely perceive maintaining the status quo to be less risky than engaging with the Belarus crisis. Policymakers do not want to antagonize Russia and fear any strong sanctions against Lukashenka only make him more likely to genuflect to Russia…..
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that Two Belarusian Journalists Go On Trial Accused Of Organizing Protests. Nevertheless, Belarus protesters are in for the long haul as the standoff continues, Deutsche Welle reports.