Ales Bialiatski: Belarus is really turning into a police state

Human rights defender – about the verbal masterpieces of Alexander Lukashenko and the situation in the country

At least eight people were detained at the now traditional women’s march, which took place in Minsk on Saturday, October 31, media reported. This time disabled people joined the action.

Together, protesters marched through the central streets of the capital, demanding the resignation of Alexander Lukashenko and an end to the violence.

The protests in Belarus have been going on for almost three months, starting on August 9, when the presidential elections were held in the country. According to official data, Alexander Lukashenko won them by an impressive margin. The opposition, followed by the European Union, the United States and a number of other countries, did not recognize the election results and demand the resignation of Lukashenka.

Meanwhile, in the Russian media and social networks, the statements of the nominal head of the Belarusian state, made by him the day before at a meeting with employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, are widely discussed. Let us remind you that Alexander Lukashenko, in particular, said: «From today, especially in the apartments of citizens, where they hide, we do not take anyone prisoner.». He also clarified: «If someone touches a soldier, he must leave there (? – V.V.) at least without hands». According to him, «we have nowhere to retreat…»

On stylistic delights in Mr. Lukashenko’s speech and the situation in Belarus Russian Service «Voices of America» spoke with the chairperson of the human rights center «Spring» Ales Bialiatskiy.

Viktor Vladimirov: How do you assess Lukashenka’s speech at a meeting with security officials, what can it mean in practice?

Ales Bialiatski: This fits well into his system of behavior. This is how he sees himself and this is how he sees power and its role. Therefore, there was nothing surprising for me here. He usually escalated the crackdown on civil society if protest sentiments intensified. This can be compared, for example, with 1996. Few people remember these events. Then Lukashenka wanted to amend the constitution in order to obtain unlimited powers of power, and it was striking that he was ready to do anything for this. In fact, at that time, the backbone of the constitution was broken, and Lukashenka received the very powers with which he rattles, showing that he is ready to suppress public activity and the whole society in general by practically any means – even with the use of military force, which he also stated yesterday. In the case, as he considers it necessary. This sounded almost like an order to his assistants in the Grodno and Brest regions that they can count on the military units stationed there..

V.V .: This indicates that a new round of repression is not ruled out.?

Ales Bialiatski: Belarus is really turning into a police state

A.B .: We have always said that this regime has not only authoritarian features, but can become semi-fascist at any moment. Now the tightening of the nuts continues. Lukashenka sees that he cannot cope with public opinion in any other way. Therefore, there are direct threats. Well, literally today it became known that the administrative code will be tightened. Corresponding amendments to the law on increasing fines and terms of punishment for participation in unauthorized rallies (from 15 to 30 days), for unregistered, as they call, symbols are already ready. Thus, the pressure increases. To this we must add that the number of political prisoners and people accused of committing «crimes», politically motivated, exceeded six hundred people, although at the beginning of the year there were three of them. This is just a collapse of the legal system, and a rapid slide towards an absolutely police state, which can be compared with the dictatorships of Latin America of the 70s (of the last century).

V.V .: How is the general situation in the country after the expiration of the terms of the People’s Ultimatum, promulgated by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya?

A.B .: All week we had completely unexpected protests, and at the same time there was a very high level of repression against the activists. There is an invisible civil war on Lukashenka, who relies on the security forces, and the rest of the people. There were strikes of workers, doctors, artists, students, who were perhaps the most active. Literally all strata of society are outraged. But the authorities are not giving in, they are actively using repressions against the same students. Hundreds of them were expelled from different universities – both Minsk and other cities. In general, a civilizational catastrophe is taking place. Belarus is really turning into a police state. There are no foreign troops in the republic yet, but our own ones are quite successfully fulfilling the role of the occupation forces..

V.V .: Don’t you think that even Moscow today is somewhat distancing itself from Lukashenka?

A.B .: Yes, it is noticeable. And Lukashenka himself stopped using union rhetoric in his speeches. Before and for some time after his visit to Putin, Minsk actively focused on improving relations with Russia and «reliance on the fraternal people». Now all sorts of compliments addressed to Russia have stopped at once … And the comments that come from the Kremlin have become more streamlined, and with hints that are not entirely clear to us. One senses, however, a certain coercion of Lukashenka to the constitutional reform, so that he does not postpone it on the back burner. Lukashenko is playing his usual game, trying to act on all external and internal fronts. No wonder: the ground under his feet is burning

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