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Belarus Protests: Putin Ready To Send Russian Police If Necessary

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that he’s willing to send Russian force to Belarus if the protests turn violent.

Alexander Lukashenko with Vladimir Putin. Source: Al Jazeera

Putin revealed to Russia’s state television that Lukashenko has asked him to prepare a Russian Law enforcement contingent to deploy to Belarus if necessary. But Putin said that both the leaders agree that there is “no such need now” and hope that there won’t be. Putin has also accused unidentified foreign forces of trying to take political advantages from the situation in Belarus. 

Hours after Putin’s interview, the police of Belarus also dispersed a protest in the city of Minsk and reports state that many protesters have also been detained.

The demonstrations began on August 9th, after the announcement of President Alexander Lukashenko or ‘last dictator of Europe’ as they call him, being re-elected for his sixth term in office.

Lukashenko has retained the post of president for 26 years. After becoming a sovereign nation after the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, Belarus’ first presidential elections were held in 1994, where Lukashenko swept the polls and continued to do so in the next five national polls, even though the elections were called out for being rigged. 

This election, Siarhei Tsikhanouski, a prominent blogger, who was running against Lukashenko and was seen as one of the strongest competitors, was arrested in May along with several other opposition candidates and Tsikhanouski was also formally accused of being a foreign agent and was barred from elections. This was followed by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya - a former teacher and also, Tsikhanouski’s wife emerging as Lukashenko’s opposing candidate and his main competitor. She received massive support from the people of Belarus who took part in rallies to show their desire to establish democracy and get rid of the authoritarian rule. 

But despite this massive show of support from people of Belarus, it was announced by the polling officials on August 9th that Lukashenko had once again swept the polls and won 80% of the vote.

This sparked protests on a large scale in the country. Protesters have taken to the streets and are demanding Lukashenko’s resignation and have called out the elections for being rigged. The political demonstrations have largely been peaceful but the authorities have dealt with the demonstrators with force and brutality. Many people including protesters and journalists have been severely injured and at least two people lost their lives.

“People who went out to defend their vote in the streets of their cities all across Belarus were brutally beaten, imprisoned and tortured by the regime, desperately clinging onto power”, said Tikhanovskaya.

She fled to Lithuania on Tuesday, following the election results after which she released a video on Friday, challenging the results.

In her appeal to the leaders of Europe, Tikhanovskaya also urged to conduct the elections again with international supervision and talked about the coordination council she was setting up and requested all the countries to respect the principles of international law. 

Protesters have again taken to the streets of Minsk and Lukashenko has called them “Western Puppets”. The EU leaders rejected the results of the Belarusian presidential elections and have warned against more new sanctions. 

Belarus industries also went on mass strikes and factory workers have stood up against Lukashenko. Unlike other countries that were a part of the USSR, Belarus did not go through the shock therapy and most of the industries are still under the state and factory workers are someone that Mr. Alexander Lukashenko has been relied upon for the displays of political support but now they are standing against him even at the risk of losing their jobs and are asking him to resign from the post of president. This has never happened before in Belarus and the common people of Belarus are creating history. 

Mr. Lukashenko had also warned the members of the coordination council against criminal charges for their attempt to create a parallel power structure and ordered the security agencies to restore order on the streets. 

The coordination council also criticized Putin’s statement about sending the military to Belarus, saying its “inadmissible” for any country to form armed units for use on the territory of Belarus and that it contradicts international law.

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