Belarus Review Daily – September 22-23, 2020

Belarus Review Daily – September 22-23, 2020

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

DPA
23.09.2020 iSANS
  1. POLITICAL ACTIVITY AND ECONOMY
  2. INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY
  3. REPRESSIONS CONTINUE

POLITICAL ACTIVITY AND ECONOMY

On Wednesday morning, 46 days after the election and following non-stop ongoing protests, Aliaksandr Lukashenka took part in what was called a “secret inauguration”. Although Lukashenka claims to have over 80% support, he drove through North Korea-looking empty streets of Minsk city center that were all stripped and blocked by the police, mobile internet was switched off on the way of Lukashenka’s cortege. The so-called “inauguration” wasn’t broadcasted on TV as required by national law. Most guests were not informed in advance about the nature of the ceremony they will attend.

The so-called “inauguration” that was arranged in the atmosphere of absolute secrecy without any prior warning, only included guests from among the top bureaucracy and a few hundred soldiers. No foreign diplomats were informed of this gathering (even the embassy of Russia claimed to have not received any invitations to the event). During the ceremony, Lukashenka put on a military suit and addressed the raws of military while simultaneously harassing and threatening the protesters. The only foreign leader to send Lukashenka greetings after the “inauguration” was Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow (who is the head of Turkmenistan, one of the most repressive tyrannies in the world).

After Lukashenka sweared in, the USA, the UK, the EU, Germany, Denmark, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Canada, and the Netherlands, issued statements with various formulations, but the same message: they will not recognize Lukashenka a legitimate or legal president of Belarus.

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee acknowledged that Lukashenka’s “inauguration” proves “he has lost all legitimacy as a leader”, hence “he is not the president of Belarus and must step down”.

The spokesman of the Kremlin, Dmitry Peskov, said the “inauguration” was “absolutely the sovereign decision of the Belarusian leadership”, but rejected to elaborate on the matter.

China supported Lukashenka by making a statement that it supports the choice of Belarusian people, and is against any disturbances created by external powers.

Legally speaking, from 2020, September 23, the former president of Belarus has no legal protection and immunity from criminal prosecution as “the head of state”. From the moment of so-called “inauguration” his previous term has been nullified while the new term is not valid. This means that Belarus national Aliaksandr Lukashenka may be subject to international criminal prosecution as soon as any country with universal criminal jurisdiction will open a criminal case against this individual who has no immunity anymore.

President-elect of Belarus Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya stated that Lukashenka’s ‘secret inauguration is an attempt to seize power’.

A member of the Coordination Council, Pavel Latushka, compared the secret swearing-in to ‘the gathering of thieves’ and called for an indefinite campaign of civil disobedience: “It is obvious that Aliaksandr Lukashenka is exclusively the president of OMON (Belarus riot police) and a handful of lying officials”.

Soon after the news about the secret “inauguration” became known to the public, spontaneous peaceful protests erupted in Minsk and numerous regional towns with thousands of people participating. At least 259 people were detained in just one evening. The police again used flash grenades, shotguns, water cannons, tear gas, and unnecessary and unproportionate violence against peaceful protesters. Dozens of people were injured in the first hours of violent dispersal of protests. Reportedly, the units of the Internal forces spent the night after the so-called ‘inauguration’ in administrative buildings in Minsk center.

The detentions were demonstratively brutal. The workers of the Ministry fo Interior, especially the representatives of the Internal Forces and the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption (GUBOPiK / GUBAZiK chaired by Mikalai Karpenkou who was personally orchestrating the action and participated in brutal assaults on protesters with a baton in his hands) acted extremely violent. In many cases, crowds of so-called ‘law enforcers’ were beating up unarmed people who constituted no menace whatsoever, or even were already on the ground and unable to move.

Numerous private cars were badly damaged by the Internal forces during arbitrary detentions of drivers. In the most violent case up to 50 soldiers in full equipment attacked a single private car with the people inside and literally destroyed the vehicle (viewer discretion: disturbing video, 18+).

The protesters in Minsk continue blocking roads in various locations, including Minsk Beltway (MKAD).

The New York times published a large Opinion editorial of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya speaking about her path into politics.

INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY

Poland will provide refuge to all Belarusian security workers who left office to protest police brutality. The trade union of Polish policemen will ensure security of these people. The initiative is a joint effort of iSANS, Polish police trade union and other partners.

EU Summit has been postponed to early October since the President of the European Council Charles Michel has to go into quarantine after a security guard was tested positive for COVID19. The Summit is to again discuss sanctions against Belarus (that were previously blocked by Cyprus due to non-related issue of its external politics).

MEP Andrius Kubilius (Lithuania) stated that secret “inauguration” of Lukashenka is “nothing, but the creation of a military junta in Belarus”.

The day before Lukashenka’s secret “inauguration”, on Tuesday, EU High Representative Josep Borrell published an extensive opinion statement that, inter alia, says “the time has come for the EU to call things by their name: Mr Lukashenko has lost all legitimacy”. Josep Borrell wrote that he is ready to join the current and future OSCE Chairman in Office, Albania and Sweden, to go to Minsk and contribute to the work of expert fact-finding mission within the “OSCE Moscow Mechanism”. Borrell states that on Monday, 21 September, the heads of the diplomatic departments of the EU countries discussed 4 action lines to respond the crisis in Belarus: sanctions, OSCE engagement, a complete review of all relations with Belarus, and support to the population and the civil society.

The presidents of Poland, Lithuania and Romania urged the EU to introduce a visa-free regime for Belarusians they also suggested extending a program of assistance for “the democratic Belarus economic transformation” that includes the following measures:

– assistance in WTO accession negotiations;

– visa-free regime when the necessary conditions are in place;
– assistance for the diversification of the energy sector and Belarus’ energy security;

– access to financial resources for the restructuring and kick-starting the Belarus liberal economy;

– increasing International Financial Institutions’ presence and activity in reforming the economy and boosting investments.

REPRESSIONS CONTINUE

On Wednesday evening, a large crowd of police workers broke into a private yard between residential houses in Novaya Baravaya district (a suburb of Minsk) after crushing the entrance gate. The members of the group armed with at least one “Kalashnikov” assault rifle (see the photo above), came with a clear intention to harass the inhabitants of the quarter that has become the symbol of peaceful resistance from the early summer 2020. The policemen ripped white-red-white flags off private balconies and terraces with no explanations whatsoever, and harassed the residents of the district in front of children who were playing in the yard.

The actions and practices of the Ministry of Interior are becoming more and more dangerous and disturbing. There is clearly an atmosphere of lawlessness and impunity among the employees of the MoI, especially within GUBOPiK / GUBAZiK units. If only the tendency of no limits to violence and illegal activity of MoI will continue, it is only a matter of time for the ‘death squadrons’ to appear.

Numerous regiments of the Ministry of Interior, such as OMON, public security police («милиция общественной безопасности») and the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption (GUBOPiK / GUBAZiK), have de-facto turned into “Tonton Macoute” type paramilitary that has nothing to do with law enforcement and does not operate in the public good within the realm of law.

To say more, all units of the Ministry of Interior are now de-facto performing the function of political police and act in the personal interest of Aliaksandr Lukashenka, not the people of Belarus. Hence, both the legality and legitimacy of this institution are now subject to discussion – and their role in fueling the potential civil conflict in Belarus. With no public support of the police, the voters will be forced to form trusted underground self-defence units to oppose what has become an illegitimate paramilitary.

More and more employees of the Ministry of Interior now look somewhat like the person in the image below (photographed during the dispersal of peaceful protesters on Wednesday evening near Niamiha metro station). There is no clear division between the police and a hypothetical illegal guerrilla formation. These people reject to provide any IDs, they have no identification marks, they do not tell who they are, and they do not abide by the laws.

Viktar Babaryka (the former potential presidential candidate who was acknowledged a political prisoner) remains in jail for over 3 months so far. The accusations against Viktar Babaryka remain so blurred that it yet remains unclear what particular actions he is charged with, states his lawyer Dzmitry Layeuski.

The court rejected the complaint of Maksim Znak’s defense. Lawyer Maksim Znak, a member of the presidium of the Coordination Council, keeps a hunger strike for 6 days in a raw. He is charged with “calls for actions aimed at causing harm to the national security of the Republic of Belarus” and may face long prison term if found guilty.

The editor-in-chief of Nasha Niva, the first Belarusian newspaper with 100+ years history, Mr. Yahor Martsinovich, was detained in the morning of September 23. His detention and criminal case are probably related to an interview with DJ Sokolovsky (one of the “DJs of changes” who played a protest song in a pro-governmental rally), who claimed that a man similar to the Deputy Interior Minister had beaten him in Akrestsina detention center that became widely known for systematic use of torture and alleged violent deaths of protesters from the use of torture after August 9, 2020.

Best regards,
iSANS team

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