Belarus Update: 8 September, 2020

Massive protests continue in Belarus and show essentially no indications of diminishing. This weekend in Minsk 100,000 Belarussians turned out to demonstrate against the regime of Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko. Demonstrators marched on Lukashenko’s residence in the capital city calling for the embattled leader to step down. The results of the presidential election in August proved to be the spark that ignited the current wave of protests in Minsk and across Belarus. The election is seen as rigged by many Belarussians. In it, Lukashenko was the victor by a considerable margin even though anti-Lukashenko sentiment in Belarus has been high.

Security forces cracked down on the protests this weekend. Hundreds of peoples were detained and arrested. Riot police used heavy-handed tactics to disperse and isolate groups of protesters. Barbed wire, and military vehicles armed with water cannons were deployed. Maria Kolesnikova, a senior opposition figure, was apparently apprehended by masked men, and thrown into a minibus that left the scene seconds later. Police deny bringing her into custody, leaving her fate unclear. The concern among other opposition members is that Kolesnikova is now in the custody of Belarussian State Security Committee.

Russia continues to monitor events in Belarus closely. Although Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated last week that Russia might be compelled to intervene militarily in Belarus at some point, there are no indications of that occurring in the near future. Moscow is content right now with the situation as it stands. Lukashenko remains in control, however, that control could very well be slipping away at this time. Memories of Euromaidan have unquestionably formed in the mind of Putin, and other senior Russian officials. The uprising in Belarus bears some similarities to the 2013-14 Ukrainian revolution. This time around, Russia cannot afford to be slow off the starting blocks. If at some point the survival of Lukashenko and his regime becomes questionable, Putin will not waste any time moving to ensure Belarus does not fall into the West’s sphere of influence.