I saw this posted on another forum.
Update: since my last post, Belarus has now entered a general strike. The county’s biggest state owned concerns have downed tools, including Lukashenko’s beloved Minsk Tractor Works. People are very angry at having their votes stolen, and the extreme brutality of the crackdown.
There have been extrordinary scenes. 35000 folk or 10% of the population of Grodno was on the street yesterday. Up to 20000 people descended on government buildings in Minsk. There was an ominous half hour when a big army convoy headed for that demo, but there seems to have been either a change of heart or countermanding orders, and they went away again. Settlements of all sizes had major protests.
I actually don’t think comparisons with Ceausescu or other territories are all that helpful. Belarus is very, very specific. Belarusian people are normally very law abiding and respectful and trusting of authorities which is why their savagery has been so shocking. I think it very unlikely that Lukashenko will be put up against a wall.
However, his political end is nigh. The regime is melting away. The question is how will it end and who will control the aftermath. No one can survive these protests for long although Lukashenko seems intent on living in an alternative reality for as long as he can. Regardless, too much has happened for his old normality to return.
The EU refusing to recognise the legitimacy of last weekend’s results is significant, as is Tikhanovskaya’s work with the Lithuanians to form a National Co-Ordinating Council to work on the transfer of power.
The Wagner mercenaries melodramatically “arrested” in Minsk the week before the election were a favour to Lukashenko from Putin. It allowed the old man to present a crude piece of theatre on how foreigners were trying to interfere whilst also presenting himself as anti -Russian. The mercenaries were sent to Belarus and paid to be arrested and spend ten days in jail. Lukashenko was bellowing about long jail time on their arrest but meekly sent them back after a ‘case closed’ yesterday.
Putin is I think genuinely ambivalent. Comparisons with Ukraine also don’t help so much. He’s long tired of Lukashenko politically and their personal relationship also has got much cooler, apparently. Russia’s preference was for a much weakened Lukashenko to cling on but a naive and inexperienced new president may not be so bad either. Senior Russian figures have also gone public in the last week and dismisses the election as fraudulent and Lukashenko as deranged, so there is a view in the higher echelons happy for the old man to slip away. The Russians won’t do much to prop him up now.
Critically for the Russians, there is no deranged Harvard-educated Friedmanite loonball waiting in the wings to take over and conduct scorched earth privatisations whilst enriching themselves and cronies, wrapped in the EU or US flag. None of the serious presidential alternatives are anti-Russian. Babaraiko, Tsepkalo, the Tikhanovskys, all understand that Belarus’ peaceful future depends on a civil and reasonable relationship with Moscow and will work towards that goal. No one is talking about EU or NATO membership. Trump very clearly couldn’t care less.
The key is the cracking of the elites around Lukashenko, and they seem to be holding the line for now. Factory bosses, local executive chairmen, have however been laughed at and disregarded very publicly by striking workers and angry citizens in the last 48 hours. The economy, already weakened by energy price rows with Russia and the pandemic, cannot withstand long strikes. However I think the position will crumble in the coming week.
How this ends-anyone’s guess still. I think the regime is toast, but there’s been a lot of premature rejoicing on social media. The OMON riot police and the army are still loyal and could inflict a lot of damage. The resistance on the ground seems an inspiring example of self-orgainsation and mutual aid but there’s no clear strategy as to how the broadly agreed goals- new, free and fair elections, an end to violence, release of all those detained since Sunday- can be achieved.
Today’s funeral of a young man shot dead this week by Spetznatz, and a massive demo planned for tomorrow, are the key events coming up this weekend. I suspect we’ll all know which way the cards will fall early next week.