This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope talk to Belarusian expert Yauheni Preiherman about the outlook for Belarus's President Aleksandr Lukashenka after his crackdowns on dissidents, EU sanctions, and a recent standoff with European countries over refugees trapped on the Belarus-Poland border.
Crackdown on opposition continued, and army conducted military exercises.
Exiled opposition leader called for access to political prisoners amid crackdown. Court in capital Minsk 7 April sentenced opposition politician and 2020 presidential candidate Valer Tsapkala to 17 years in prison in absentia. Another presidential candidate, Viktar Babaryka, sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment in 2021, was reportedly hospitalised late April; EU 27 April expressed concern, pointing to “traces of beatings”, while exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanousvkaya demanded diplomats be given access to political prisoners “to assess the conditions in which they are kept”.
Belarus held military exercises and asked Russia for security guarantees. Defence ministry 5 April announced three-day “tactical exercise” at Polish and Ukrainian borders, 19-22 April conducted further exercises to strengthen air defence, 22 April announced forces had completed training on Russian tactical nuclear missile systems. President Lukashenko 10 April asked Russia for security guarantees amid heightened tensions with West. Meanwhile, Canada 11 April expanded sanctions to include National Bank and eight other banks in Belarus due to its support for “Russia’s illegal invasion” of Ukraine.
Thousands of people looking to enter the European Union have massed at the Belarusian frontier with Poland. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Oleg Ignatov explains how the events relate to tensions between Belarus and its ally, Russia, on one side, and Western governments on the other.
In this week’s episode of Hold Your Fire!, Olesya Vartanyan, Crisis Group’s senior South Caucasus analyst, opens up about how the recent flare-up in Nagorno-Karabakh is affecting her personally. It could be the “big war” between Armenia and Azerbaijan that everyone was dreading would happen.
President Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s government is teetering after he declared victory in a rigged 9 August vote. Protests have exploded. Moscow, Brussels and other stakeholders should avoid transforming the Belarus crisis into a European one, cooperate to warn against repression and insist on new, fair elections.
Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.