Belarus. Opposition politician Andrej Sannikov’s popular internet site charter97.org was blocked by the authorities in January. The country’s information ministry says that the website publishes information that is illegal to disseminate. At the 2010 election, Sannikov challenged dictator Aljaksandr Lukashenka but was arrested after the election, accused of being behind the mass protests that followed the election. The opposition in the country accuses President Lukashenka of wiping out Belarusian identity and instead of Russianising the former Soviet Republic.
In May Sweden received its first Belarusian ambassador since the “teddy bear release” in 2012, when a Swedish PR agency conducted a manifesto coup by dropping hundreds of teddy bears with regime-critical messages across the capital Minsk. As a result of the coup, the Swedish ambassador Stefan Eriksson was expelled from the country in August of that year. After six years away, Dmitry Mironchik was now appointed ambassador to Sweden, and in connection with that he said in Belarus State TV channel that “the icy relationship between Belarus and Sweden is over”.
According to Countryaah.com, Minsk is the capital city of Belarus, a country located in Eastern Europe. Several independent journalists were arrested by police through various arrests in August. The reason for the arrests is said to be accusations that the reporters used the state news agency Belta without paying, a crime that can give up to two years in prison. Both the Council of Europe and Reporters Without Borders have expressed concern over the deprivation of liberty. According to Reporters Without Borders press freedom ranking, Belarus lands in a not very flattering place 155 of 180 countries.
In August, President Lukashenka dismissed Prime Minister Andrej Kabjakau along with several other top ministers. The reason is a corruption scandal in health care that has shaken the country. The head of the country’s development bank Sharjah Rumas took over as prime minister. Four new Deputy Prime Ministers were also appointed, as well as a new Finance Minister and a new Minister of Industry.
Independent site is ordered to close
The independent news site Tut.by is shut down by Belarusian authorities for the rest of the year. The site has operated since the turn of the millennium and teased the regime by reproducing criticism and watching protests, including by publishing videos. In a statement, those responsible for the site say that the site in some form will continue anyway.
Mr Lukashenko swears allegiance to the presidency
The news that Alexander Lukashenko has been sworn in as president for another term triggers new demonstrations in Minsk and other cities. More than 150 people were arrested in clashes between protesters and police. The presidential installation has not been announced in advance and is not broadcast on TV as usual. The news that Lukashenko has taken the oath of office, announced by the state news agency Belta, triggers condemnation from the outside world. A spokesman for the US Foreign Ministry refers to the questioned presidential election and announces that the United States does not see Lukashenko as Belarus’ legitimately elected leader. Germany follows the same line, as do the Netherlands, Denmark, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and the Baltic states.
The EU does not accept the presidential election
The EU does not recognize Alexander Lukashenko as the legitimate head of state following the questionable presidential election on August 9, EU foreign policy spokesman Josep Borrell told the European Parliament.
Lukashenko returned from Putin on loan
President Lukashenko visits Russian President Putin in Sochi (Lukashenko’s first trip abroad since the controversial presidential election) and is promised a $ 1.5 billion loan, which would allow Belarus to cover both forthcoming payments on government loans and an energy bill from Russia. Putin says joint military exercises will be held in Belarus every month for the coming year. According to Putin, Lukashenko has also confirmed plans to amend the Belarusian constitution. Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, in exile in Lithuania, says Lukashenko should be forced to repay the billion-dollar loan in person “because it will be used to whip us up.” The trip to Sochi is generally seen as proof that a weakened Lukashenko is becoming increasingly dependent on those in power in Russia.
Several hundred arrested during Sunday’s protest
Riot police arrest more than 400 protesters in Minsk in connection with another large Sunday demonstration against the president and the election on 9 August. Police in other cities are also intervening against protesters, who are being chased away with water cannons.
Ukrainians are singled out for electoral influence
The United States is imposing sanctions on Ukrainian politician Andriy Derkaty, who published audio recordings from 2016 that allegedly show that US presidential candidate Joe Biden was involved in corruption. Derkachi is described as a Russian agent and is accused of trying to influence the outcome of the 2020 US presidential election.
Swedish action in Belarus
The Swedish development assistance authority Sida has decided to “freeze” payments for development assistance projects in Belarus in which state actors are involved. A major reason is the increasing violence on the part of the authorities. According to Swedish Radio, three different projects are affected. On the ground in Minsk, Swedish Foreign Ministry staff are part of a group of diplomats who have joined the regime-critical Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievitch at home to protect her from the country’s authorities.
Serbia drops out of practice
Serbia, which has good relations with Belarus, is refraining from participating in an impending military exercise with Russia on Belarusian soil. The reason is that there has been pressure from the EU, states the Serbian Ministry of Defense. Serbia’s desire for EU membership is in the balance.
Lukashenko: “Sit a little too long”
“I may have been in office a little too long,” President Lukashenko was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies. But at the same time, he claims that he is, at the moment, the only one who can “protect the nation.” He does not reveal any plans to resign, despite a month of widespread popular protests against him. But a few days later, he told Russian media that he was considering announcing the next presidential election prematurely. Mr Lukashenko has ruled the country since 1994, when he was democratically elected, but since then the constitution has been amended to allow him to remain in the presidency with something that looks like support for the law.
Arrested after refusing forced exile
Maria Kolesnikova, one of three women who gathered opposition forces against President Lukashenko ahead of the August presidential election, was arrested after opposing forced deportation to Ukraine. She is reported to have torn her passport in order not to be sent across the border. The other two women in the leadership of the opposition campaign, Svetlana Tichanovskaya and Veronika Tsepkalo, are already in exile (see August 10 and July 24).
Fearless citizens in continued protests
Belarus is holding, for the fourth week in a row and despite previous police interventions, major Sunday demonstrations against the presidential power and against the official result of the presidential election held on 9 August. Families with children, Catholic priests, athletes and students participate. The next day, the Ministry of the Interior states that at least 633 people have been arrested.
Polish support for Belarusian opposition
Olga Kovalkova, a member of the Belarussian opposition’s coordination council, says she has been forced into exile in Poland. After being arrested in her home country on August 25, instead of being released, she was threatened and driven to the border by the security service. A spokesman for the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki states that Poland will support people threatened by political persecution in the neighboring country.