The situation in Belarus has reached a turning point
Belarus protest: How is Lukashenko’s support outside Minsk? | DW News
The creation of a mediating mission between the Lukashenka regime and the opposition with the assistance of the EU and Russia is key today, experts say.
On Tuesday, August 18, the first meeting was held at the headquarters of the former presidential candidate of Belarus Viktor Babariko, who was arrested by the authorities after his candidacy. «Coordination Council for the transfer of power» opposition. About creation «Coordinating Council» earlier announced by the rival of the current president of the country Alexander Lukashenko Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who, under pressure from the authorities, left Belarus, leaving for neighboring Lithuania.
Council members, including a number of opposition and public figures of the country, denied Lukashenka’s statements that their goal was to seize power and called on the country’s authorities to engage in dialogue with the opposition. If this does not happen, the council members will appeal to statesmen and high-ranking officials with an appeal to start a joint discussion on ways out of the crisis, writes Radio Liberty / Free Europe. Earlier, one of the opposition leaders, the former head of the headquarters of Viktor Babariko and now an associate of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Maria Kolesnikova, urged in a video message of state officials to go over to the side of the protesters.
It also became known on Tuesday that the Ambassador of Belarus to Slovakia Igor Leshchenya, who had previously recorded a video message expressing support for the protesters, had resigned. The Ambassador of Belarus to Spain Pavel Pustovoy called for a recount of the voting results, and also condemned the police brutality, calling for a fair investigation of cases of violence and dialogue in the Belarusian society.
President Lukashenko says he is not going to resign «under the pressure of the street», and has repeatedly referred to protesters as marginalized populations led by foreign «puppeteers».
The confrontation between the Lukashenka regime and the opposition has reached an impasse, according to a number of experts. To get out of this situation, the opposition needs to form new leaders, and the international community should create a mediating mission between the country’s authorities and the opposition. The leading role in the creation of this mission should be taken by the European Union, whose leaders will gather on Wednesday, August 19, for an emergency summit to discuss the situation in Belarus. The EU should also involve Russia in the creation of a mediating mission. Such assessments were made during a web event on the situation in Belarus organized by the German Marshall Fund on Tuesday, August 18.
Journalist of the Belarusian service of Radio Liberty / Free Europe Kastus Lashkevich believes that at the moment the protest movement is in «dead end». If during the week the protests in Minsk and other cities took place without a clear leader, then at this stage they need him, the journalist noted during the web event. In his opinion, the return of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya would help the opposition movement move to the next level, however, there is no clarity about whether she can return today..
The journalist also stressed that President Lukashenko is not going to leave: «Yes, there are thousands of hundreds of us. We can take to the streets and peacefully oppose again. But Lukashenka will not resign. He is not going to give up his powers. His entourage – high-ranking officials – also do not want to leave. They show no sign of support for the protests».
Alexey Znatkevich (Alyaksey Znatkevich), also a journalist for the Belarusian service of Radio Liberty / Free Europe, believes that today is a turning point for the country and the opposition movement. «There is no chance that the situation will return to the status quo as it did six months ago. Either Lukashenka will be removed from power, or a full-fledged military-police dictatorship of the fascist type will reign in Belarus», – notes the journalist.
In his opinion, created on the initiative of the Tikhanovskaya headquarters «Coordination Council» should be expanded to include also those who sided with the protesters. This will help strengthen the opposition movement and identify new leaders, as President Lukashenko will not release opposition leaders from prison. «first wave».
«Once they release key political prisoners like Babariko, this regime will no longer», – says Alexey Znatkevich. Despite the fact that some journalists from state-owned media channels left their jobs in protest, and Belarus 4 TV in Grodno yesterday covered the protests live, state propaganda on the country’s main channels remains strong, he adds..
«The opposition has no visible leader today», – notes the expert of the Polish Institute of International Relations Anna Maria Dynar (Anna Maria Dyner). Svetlana Tikhanovskaya played a huge role in mobilizing the population before the elections, but she remains an extremely vulnerable figure for the further role of the leader of the protest movement, since her husband Sergei Tikhanovsky – one of the opposition «first wave» – remains under arrest.
The analyst also believes that if Moscow can single out opposition leaders whose vision is to maintain a strong relationship with Russia, it can support them. In Belarus, for the most part, there is no anti-Russian sentiment, says Anna Maria Dynar, the protest is directed against the Lukashenka regime and police violence, and the Kremlin is aware of this.
A military invasion, which the expert does not completely rule out, will nevertheless be Moscow’s least advantageous response to what is happening in Belarus today, because it will cause not only an acute negative reaction in the West, but also among the Belarusian population. The Kremlin will watch the development of events, the expert adds, although in general Moscow prefers to see a weakened Lukashenko in the post of the head of Belarus, rather than the victory of the opposition.
Director of Central and Eastern European Programs of the German Marshall Fund Jörg Forbrig (Joerg Forbrig) also noted during the web event that at the highest echelons of power in Belarus, including the special services, today only a few cases of protest against Lukashenka are visible. Mostly it happens at the grassroots level..
According to the expert, the expressions of support for the protesters from the former Ambassador of Belarus to France, ex-Minister of Culture of Belarus and Director of the Kupala Theater Pavel Latushko, who was dismissed from his post after speaking out in support of the opposition, are rare examples of a change in position among high-ranking officials. Expressions of support for the opposition and the departure from his post of the Ambassador of Belarus to Slovakia could be «dough» regime to determine those who can follow his example, the expert believes, since Igor Leshchenya «has a history of super-devotion to Alexander Lukashenko and the apparatus».
One of the reasons why today the representatives of the highest echelons of power remain on the side of the regime, perhaps the rapid development of the situation in the country, which left them no time to prepare for a change of position. For people at a high level in this mode, the expert notes, before switching to the other side, it may be important to destroy or preserve a number of documents, or transfer assets: «Therefore, I think that even if there are those who are thinking about the transition, they need time to take some precautions.», – noted by Jörg Forbrig.
As for the upcoming EU summit on Belarus on Wednesday, Jörg Forbrig believes that European leaders should again condemn the actions of the Lukashenka regime, express support for the protesters, start developing humanitarian programs and a plan to help victims of repression. Also, the European Union should offer a mediating mission in negotiations between the current authorities of the country and the opposition to resolve the deadlocked situation. At the same time, dialogue with Russia is important, the expert emphasizes. It is the involvement of the latter in the EU initiative to establish a dialogue between the government of Belarus, the opposition and civil society that is most important at tomorrow’s EU summit..
The United States, adds Joerg Forbrig, has not yet taken concrete steps to resolve the situation, limiting itself to a number of statements condemning the actions of the Lukashenka regime. At this stage, the best thing that Washington can do, which is focused on internal problems and the upcoming presidential elections, is to support the initiatives of the European Union, the expert of the German Marshall Fund said.