It’s been two weeks since Aleksandr Lukashenka clenched his controversial election win in Belarus. Since then, hundreds of thousands have protested against the alleged election fraud. Those speaking out are risking their own lives. (TW: the following content contains references to violence) By Michael Delaney.
Even before the official declaration of Lukashenka victory, with a whopping 80% of votes, the protests had already begun.
The fight to oust the “Last Dictator of Europe” broke out on the streets of Minsk.
In all too familiar scenes, police armed to the teeth with riot gear tried to disperse crowds with tear gas and rubber bullets.
The attempt to cling onto power is desperate and brutal.
Last week, huge crowds defied the government’s warnings to congregate in protest against the fraudulent election.
Speaking on behalf of the UK government, Dominic Raab outlined the UK’s position in rejecting the outcome of the election.
But whilst foreign governments entered a war of words, reports trickled in of riot police firing on protesters with live rounds.
Those unfortunate enough to be detained by the riot police have shared some harrowing accounts.
Protesters have complained about excessive force, beatings and even torture. Numerous people have been reported missing.
One such case includes the disappearance of Nikita Kryvtsov, who vanished after the 12th August. Over the weekend, local news company Nasha Niva reported that a man had been founded hanged in a forest, on the outskirts of Minsk. He has since been identified as Mr. Kryvtsov.
The article also describes signs of beating and heavy bruising on the body.
Another report from the Ukrainian ‘Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group’ (KHPG) has broken the story of a former museum director whose body was found in a river last week.
It is alleged that the 29-year-old Konstantin Shyshmakou refused to sign a falsified electoral protocol claiming that Aleksandr Lukashenka had won the presidential elections.
Konstantin’s father, Andrei Shyshmakou described how “it all began on 9 August” when his son, and another member of the electoral commission, refused to sign the electoral results protocol, calling his son “a man with principles”.
Being a child is no exception
Children are not treated any differently.
A mother, known only as Inna, has spoken out about her battle to free her 14-year-old son Denis, who was arrested at the protests.
Dennis recounted his experience:
“I saw a lot, but I couldn’t believe that women and children were beaten. We heard one girl shouting that she was pregnant, and they beat her even harder. After leaving, the doctor examined me, said that they had broken off a kidney or broken ribs. I have to go to the hospital.”
Dennis was only released back to his mother after 10 days and only when she signed a document stating that he had been involved in the protests.
The reaction from Belarus’ population demonstrates a country desperate to break free from a lifetime of oppression.
Amnesty International has already delivered a 12,000-strong petition to the Belarusian Ministry of Internal Affairs urging the authorities to stop using force against peaceful protesters.
The EU community has so far imposed sanctions on an undisclosed number of officials. In addition to rejecting the result, help has been offered to mediate a transition of power, however, there are concerns that Russia is also eager to intervene in the unfolding crisis.
Things could get worse before they get better.