Belarus Review Daily – August 28, 2020

Belarus Review Daily – August 28, 2020

Your daily insight into Belarus crisis (delivered Monday to Friday)

Voiceofbelarus.com
28.08.2020 iSANS
  1. POLITICAL ACTIVITY AND ECONOMY
  2. INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY
  3. REPRESSIONS CONTINUE

POLITICAL ACTIVITY AND ECONOMY

Clement Beaune (Secretary of State for European Affairs at French MFA) today claimed that the resolution of the situation in Belarus is impossible without the participation of Russia. French MFA claims that the resolution of political crisis in Belarus is impossible without Russian participation. In fact, France now pushes the EU into negotiations with Putin over the future of Belarus – yet without any Belarusian representation or consultation with legitimate national leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya or the Coordination Committee that legally represents the majority of Belarusian population.

It has to be understood that negotiations ‘over Belarusian head’ when millions of people protest against Lukashenka, unfair elections, police violence and torture will go way beyond worsening attitude to the EU. If the EU will be fooled by Russian propaganda and threats, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia will acquire Russian forces all along their borders with Belarus. No talks over the head of Belarus are legit and moral. Belarus is long a sovereign independent state. Not a colony of Russia. Not even a protectorate. The West has to clearly realize it now to avoid the creation of the largest ‘grey zone’ within the European continent: https://isans.org/columns-en/belarus-and-this-cynical-and-cowardly-world.html

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya published an address to teachers: ‘Many of you were dragged into election commissions, where the ‘desired’ result was ensured. I wasn’t desired for the people, but for a single person who imagines himself to be the master of everyone including you’.

The co-founder of Belarusian-American IT giant EPAM (NYSE:EPAM) predicts that Belarus will face the most extensive brain drain in 30 years if the situation will remain as it is. Non-recognition of the results of the presidential elections by the international community, protests, strikes, repressions and disconnection of the Internet that takes place on a regular basis since June 2020 – all this can result in the loss of the IT industry. At least 350 IT specialist are now relocating to Ukraine with their families, according to source.

Banks’ liquidity and lending sector are ahead of serious difficulties, and more banks suspend all lending to private individuals. In a meantime, numerous businesses may stop due to cuts in access to capital market. The financial system is moving towards severe foreign currency deficit that may seriously affect export-oriented state enterprises.

Today, Lukashenka announced dismantlement of private business that wouldn’t prove loyalty: ‘We will focus on reliability and loyalty to the state. In order to prevent what has happened now. The overwhelming majority of private businesses began to stagger.’ Private companies are now indeed forced to voice loyalty to Lukashenka: a few corporate businesses anonymously claimed to have received letters that force their PR services to publicly express loyalty to the regime. The behavior of Lukashenka in the last 3 weeks leaves limited options to private business and investors: moving money abroad, searching for alternative jurisdictions, or supporting the protesters.

The miners’ protests in Belaruskali continue for the second week. Some workers do not go to work at all. Many others use the ‘Italian strike’ strategy. According to people in the field, the production will fall 30% to 40% as compared to the management’s plans.

On August 26, most employees of Yanka Kupala National Drama Theater (58 people including actors) were fired. They all filed dismissal requests after the chairman of the theatre, Pavel Latushka, was fired for criticizing Lukashenka and police violence. Actors continue to manifest their disagreement with the authorities. Today they left their dramatic awards in front of the theatre.

Lukashenka says he has no doubt that the ‘military threat’ from the West: ‘The fact that I am straining you about these tank caterpillars in Poland and Lithuania… listen, we are not idiots. There were American F-16s near Berlin, why not let them stand there? No, they sent them here: it’s 15-20 minutes approach time to our territory. For me, a commander in chief, this is a question. It is unclear what they have on the hardpoints. Maybe nuclear weapons!’. He added that he had put the Belarusian army on alert, adding that foreign politicians should think ahead of what Europe could become if Belarus ‘gets on fire’.

In 1990s Lukashenka became the first president of a country that had almost no debt. At the beginning of 2020, the total debt of Belarus came close to $ 45 billion (71.1% of GDP) before the devaluation that took place later this year. According to Forbes Russia, ’the sixth five-year plan threatens to become fatal for this experiment’. In the current situation, foreign loans will inevitably be used to support internal repressions. Hence, the civil society should develop methods to demotivate potential creditors from lending to Lukashneka’s regime. The only way out of the crisis situation is the transit of power, as this will help regain the trust of foreign creditors.

Lukashenka promised sanctions against Lithuania and Poland, and de-facto promised to build a transit deadlock. The benefits for Belarus yet remain very uncertain. Operations with Belarus make up to no more than 4% of Lithuania’s foreign trade, so this claim can’t be taken seriously. Moreover, losses for Belarus may significantly overwhelm the losses for Lithuania since Belarusian potash company Belaruskali is significantly dependent on Klaipeda port in Lithuania and Belarus partially owns a terminal there: https://reform.by/159552-pochemu-otkaz-ot-klajpedskogo-porta-navredit-belarusi

Lithuania’s minister of foreign affairs Linkevicius stated that Lukashenka’s threats to initiate sanctions against Lithuania and Poland are Lukashenka’s ‘natural behavior’ since authoritarian ruler aims to keep his position at any cost, and calls his behavior ‘inadequate’.

Putin again gathered Russia’s Security Council on Belarusian Crisis. Yesterday, president Putin announced that Russia has prepared a ‘reserve’ of law enforcement employees to be sent to Belarus to be used against ‘extremists’ upon Lukashenka’s request. Today, the press secretary of the President of Russia Dmitry Peskov stated that Moscow assumes they will not be used to help Belarus, unless ‘in case of emergency’ and only within the Collective Security Treaty and the treaty on the Union State’.

INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY

Ukraine has suspended all contacts with Belarus for an indefinite period, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba announced yesterday. Now Ukraine considers sanctions against Belarus. Belarusian MFA commented on Ukraine’s decision to freeze contacts, and stated they consider any calls for new elections as well as ‘assessment of how Belarus interacts with its allies and integration partners’ an attempt to interfere in internal affairs.

Czech Republic will allocate more than $ 500,000 to help the victims of the post-election repression in Belarus.

Lithuania’s Prime Minister Saulius Skvernialis stated today on Lukashenka that ‘it’s hard to imagine how much one should hold onto power and hate his own people, to cause harm to own country and population because of hurt ambitions’. He addeed that Belarus will be the first country to suffer from economic measures announced by Lukashenka.

The EU expects from authorities the immediate and unconditional release of detained journalists, along with all peaceful protesters, but yet remains very incompetent and supportive to the regime. Today, an informal summit of EU foreign ministers, inter alia, discussed political crisis in Belarus. The parties agreed that Belarus has to accept a visit of OSCE mission to facilitate the dialogue. A group of experts will prepare sanctions list that will be agreed on in the next few days. According to EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, the list will include 20 top officials who are responsible for rigged elections and police violence. These measures look insulting to all victims of torture and political murders, and will ruin pro-European aspiration in Belarus. From within Belarus, it will be considered as absolute political impotency of the EU, and betrayal of EU principles if any further cooperation with Lukashenka’s regime will follow.

REPRESSIONS CONTINUE

According to Belarusian Ministry of Interior (MoI), 114 protesters were detained yesterday. Human rights activists recorded over 200 detentions. Arrests of protesters and journalists continued in Minsk and the regions today.

The founder of Vonde/Hepta and Ū Contemporary Art Gallery, Aliaksandr Vasilevich, is now under criminal charges on political foundations and was encanentated. Yesterday, the Department of Financial Investigations of State Control Committee searched the premises of businesses owned by him and his wife Nadia Zelenkova. Vasilevich was the active supporter of Viktar Babaryka and supported Babaryka’s run for presidency.

Eight human rights groups in Belarus recognized the following 9 people as political prisoners: Aliaksandr Frantskevich (Александр Францкевич), Akikhira Khanada (Акихира Ханада), Aliaksandr Shabalin (Александр Шабалин), Yuri Ulasau (Юрий Власов), Ihnat Sidoryk (Игнат Сидорик), Yuri Savitski (Юрий Савицкий), Artsiom Kvasheuski (Артем Квашевский), Tatsiana Kaneuskaya (Татьяна Каневская) and Artsiom Satsuk (Артем Сацук). These people are charged with Art. 293 Criminal Code (mass disturbances). Human rights groups stated that these people are being persecuted for participating in peaceful protests when expressing their opinions on the results of elections.

Yesterday, up to 50 media workers in Minsk and Brest were taken to the police to check their documents. As a result, the majority were released, but four spent a night in detention. The Belarusian Association of Journalists requires the Investigative Committee to initiate criminal cases for obstructing the legitimate professional activities of dozens of journalists. As a rule, state bodies ignore these requests pretending the check of documents was very necessary, and was made within the legal framework.

Vitaliy Krivko, a member of the Coordination Council, as well as the coordinator of Viktar Babaryka’s headquarters, was detained tonight by unknown people.

Activist Taisiya Kabanchuk was detained near her house in Babruisk.

Today, the head of the Brest regional organization of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada) Ihar Maslouski was sentenced to 5 days in jail for participating in an ‘unauthorized mass event’. He was detained yesterday.

Salihorsk-based human rights activist Leanid Markhotka (Belarusian Helsinki Committee) was sentenced to 10 days in jail.

Vital Krasnitsky, an activist of the Belshina strike committee, was detained in Babruisk.

Human rights activist and activist Mikhail Matskevich, who was detained in Minsk yesterday, was sentenced to 7 days in jail.

The workers of Belarusian state-owned distributor of local and foreign pharmaceutical products are now being pressed by the management for signing a petition against police violence. Earlier, over 900 workers of pharmaceutical industry signed an open letter against police violence.

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