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.
Authorities deepened crackdown, arresting over 200 people in lead-up to February elections; govt proposed new military doctrine.
Authorities conducted mass raids as crackdown escalated. In lead-up to Feb parliamentary elections, Viasna human rights centre 23 Jan said authorities detained or interrogated scores for alleged “involvement in extremist groups”, including former political prisoners; as of 30 Jan, over 200 people “persecuted” amid ever-worsening crackdown. EU and U.S. 25 Jan decried “wave of repression”.
Minsk announced monitors for Feb elections. Govt 5 Jan invited Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation and Commonwealth of Independent States – regional intergovernmental organisation comprising former Soviet republics – to observe 25 Feb polls, 8 Jan announced it would not invite Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe due to organisation’s “double standards”. Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya 12 Jan reiterated call to boycott elections.
Minsk put forward updated national security doctrine. Lukashenko 16 Jan convened Security Council to discuss updated military doctrine draft, which for first time provides for use of nuclear weapons (Russia stationed tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus in 2023). Defence Minister Viktor Khrenin 19 Jan said weapons were “an important component” of doctrine’s overall focus on “preventive deterrence of potential adversaries”. Meanwhile, Lukashenko 29 Jan met with Russian President Putin 29 Jan in Russian city St. Petersburg to discuss ways to deepen alliance.
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.
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