What is happening in Belarus now?

Background

Belarus has been ruled by the president Alexander Lukashenko for 26 years, having consolidated vast power. Yet during these years there were a significant amount of cases when this power was abused. During all the years of him being in power, political opposition was suppressed and its leaders were persecuted: they were either arrested, fled the country or disappeared. Human rights were violated: Freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, right for a fair trial, amongst others. International community announced sanctions against Lukashenko for human rights violations. It was also announced that the last 4 elections, where Lukashenko won, were held with falsifications.

Presidential campaign 2020

By the time of elections 2020, the majority of people were extremely unhappy with the president. He was completely disregarding the danger of coronavirus (there was no quarantine in Belarus). There was no support from the government towards neither the businesses, nor the common people. He was publicly saying offensive statements towards the common people, humiliating peoples’ honor and dignity.

During the campaign there were several oppositional candidates with the most popular being Victor Babariko, Valerii Tsepkalo, Sergei Tsichanovsky. With them becoming more popular, V. Babariko and S. Tsichanovsky were arrested, and V. Tsepkalo was not registered as a candidate. Svetlana Tsichanovskaya, wife of the arrested candidate, became a new candidate, and quickly gained popularity with the people. After that the headquarters of the arrested candidates (represented by two women) united with S. Tsichanovskaya. Quickly these three women with white ribbons on their hands became a symbol of change for Belarus.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-07-23/three-women-try-to-unseat-belarus-president-alexander-lukashenko/12483318

The elections day 2020

  • The Central Election Commission of Belarus did not allow any international observers, apart from those from CIS countries.
  • Many independent observers were not able to do their work properly, many of them were observing the elections through windows and forced to stay outside. A few were detained by the police.
  • The voting cabins were not closed.
  • Knowing about the falcifications, people, who wanted to vote for Tsichanovskaya wore white ribbons on their hands. It was noticed that the commission was giving spoiled ballots to the people with white ribbons. It meant that their ballots were already invalid.
  • The official numbers do not coincide with all the alternatively counted ones.

The observers, who were let in, reported many cases of falsifications.

All alternative calculations and polls showed that claims concerning the results of the elections made by authorities were questionable.

Taking into consideration the falsifications on the previous elections, the opposition created a platform, where the ballots could be uploaded and therefore counted alternatively. Knowing that, the government shut down the internet, starting on the election day.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/08/11/internet-disruption-belarus

Taking into consideration the above said, Belarusian people do not believe that A. Lukashenko is legally in power and they want to change it.

After the elections:

At 8:00 pm (straight after the end of the elections) people were coming to the local polling stations to see the results. Already there were special military forces (ОМОН) on the streets.
At several polling stations the polling commission did not announce the results and escaped, being evacuated by the police. The Central Election Commission of Belarus claimed that the president won by 80 present majority according to the preliminary calculation. People started to take to the streets, because they neither believed the results, nor agreed with them. Thousands of people all over the Belarus went into the streets and shouted “Shame”, “Lukashenko, go away”, “We believe, we can, we will win”. People who went to the streets were from different age groups, from young to old, they did not have guns or other kinds of arms.

The government responded in the most brutal of ways. They have sent special forces (ОМОН), who are led by Dmitry Pavlichenko. He is the one who carried out criminal orders, supposedly killed Lukashenko’s political opponents (Zakharenko, Gonchar and Krasovsky) in 1999 and 2000, and was involved in the disappearances of people in Belarus. He was appointed as the head of the OMON. He was detained in 2000 by the Belarusian KGB, but was released on the personal orders of Lukashenko. After his release, he declared that he was ready to carry out any order of the president. He calls Lukashenko his master. These special forces were sent to arrest whomever they could catch on the streets, even if a person was simply passing by. They used flash-bang grenades, beat people with batons, shot them with rubber bullets, and sent their military trucks into the crowd. Police are attacking cars (many drivers are using horns to show their support of the protests) and dragging drivers out, unlawfully confiscating their property. Officially 2 people are dead and 6700 people got arrested.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/08/belarus-protests-human-rights-chief-condemns-crackdown-200812193921140.html

Condition in prisons:

There is not much information about the people being captured. What little information we are receiving shows that:

  • People are tortured, beaten.
  • People are not treated in a humane fashion
  • Ill and sick do not get medical attention “if you ask again, we’ll break your arms”
  • People are deprived of sleep
  • There is not enough water and practically no food being provided
  • Up to 30 people are being kept in cells designed to hold 4 people. Consequently the prisoners cannot breathe.
  • Prisoners are forced to kneel on hard concrete yards, in the cold for hours.
  • Prisoners are threatened with being set alight, killed, blown up.

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-europe-53789684/belarus-election-he-threatened-to-burn-us-alive

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/christopherm51/belarus-protesters-detained-police-abuse-lukashenko

  • A prisoner was threatened with rape if she didn’t sign a document. A male prisoner was threatened with rape using a baton if he didn’t give the password to his phone.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-53776461

  • Female prisoners menstruating were not allowed sanitary products. They were told to use their t-shirts.
  • Blood and excrement is left uncleaned on the same floors where prisoners are thrown and beaten. (Note: covid is spread via body secretions.)
  • Prisoners are stripped, searched “in a rude way” and forced to crawl.
  • Wailing is being recorded through the night by people in streets nearby to the prison.

https://twitter.com/franakviacorka/status/1294008633903259648?s=19

  • Prisoners are allowed no contact with relatives and vice versa.
  • No access to toilets. Reports of people with diarrhoea in the corner of cells.

Journalists,

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/08/belarus-journalists-under-attack/

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/08/1070172

volunteer independent observers, innocent passers-by (girls asking the policemen which is a safe route, a man offering a flower and government employees are all indiscriminately arrested and taken away).

https://news.sky.com/story/belarus-protests-i-was-locked-up-and-beaten-after-police-hauled-me-out-of-taxi-12049496

One boy was taken from an apartment:

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/detained-protesters-in-belarus-tell-of-government-torture

Belarussian journalists were forced to bias the news:

https://www.rferl.org/amp/signing-off-belarusian-journalists-walking-off-the-job-amid-election-protests/30784413.html

Riot police have also targeted press photographers, pulling out memory cards and breaking cameras:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/08/belarus-protests-human-rights-chief-condemns-crackdown-200812193921140.html

Some more stories from Belarus:

Actors

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/01/censorship-suppression-belarus-201412313480229817.html

Soldiers are switching sides and publicly burning their uniforms.

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-europe-53776463/belarus-uniform-shame-becomes-viral-protest

More information:

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/08/11/poland-calls-for-eu-summit-on-belarus.html

https://www.rferl.org/a/elections-in-belarus-how-lukashenka-won-and-won-and-won-and-won-and-won-/30767860.html

https://www.rferl.org/a/baltic-states-urge-new-election-in-belarus-call-for-eu-sanctions/30785103.html