“Why should he stop?” Contemptuous Lukashenko calls it a bluff of the West

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko has issued a statement condemning Western frustration and threats of economic sanctions, further isolating the landlocked Eastern European country after it decided to divert an EU commercial airliner and arrest an opposition activist in its custody.

On Wednesday, the Belarusian strongman made it clear that everything is worth it.

Speaking for the first time forced landing The arrests of Ryanair’s Minsk 4978 flight 78 blogger Roman Protasich, his girlfriend’s 66-year-old former collective farm manager Sofia Sapega in Vilnius, warned that it was only a matter of time before other dissidents abroad were caught.

“We know you by sight,” he said.

Mr Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus for 27 years, has been an international pariah since he declared victory in a disputed election last summer and stepped up peaceful protests against his regime.

Tuesday, EU banned by Belarus օդ Discusses sanctions that could cut key segments of its export market. Most of the land borders are closed, the country’s sky is now empty, the Belarusians have several ways to leave, except Russia, which stands next to Lukashenko.

Roman Protasich in court in 2017 Charges filed in Kurapati for participating in an unsanctioned protest in the area of ​​a mass grave for Belarusian victims of Stalinism © Reuters

But the wiretapping shows that despite international pressure, after months of suppressing protests, Lukashenko is feeling stronger at home, said Maria Rohava, a researcher at the University of Oslo.

“The fact that they feel they can carry out such a brutal act without fear of repercussions is a sign that they feel very secure behind Russia, in their internal situation, in the absence of a credible obligation to impose this kind on the EU. “Sanctions that will harm the regime,” he said.

“In the environment in which they operate, costing was not even part of the puzzle.”

For a moment last August, it seemed that Lukashenko’s regime would soon collapse. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets every Sunday to protest the election results, while factory workers who thought of working for Lukashenko’s political base mocked him loudly when he came to speak.

Minsk police detain protesters accusing Alexander Lukashenko of stealing presidential election in August last year © Sergei gapon / AFP Getty Images

Lukashenko resolutely cling to power tightening control over the LMs, sending special forces to disperse protests and arresting dissidents, many of whom say they were tortured in custody. Every week during the winter, the protests subsided.

Viasna, a Belarusian human rights group, says the country of 9.5 million has 421 political prisoners, so much so that guards in some prisons have forced them to wear yellow labels.

“The main reasons for these protests have not been eliminated. The grievances are as strong as they were, “said Nigel Gould-Davis, a former UK ambassador to Minsk and now a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “It is only at this point that the authorities have learned how to scare away the obvious manifestations of this discontent.”

Following the arrest of Protasich, Belarusian authorities released videos of the blogger confessing to “organizing riots”, a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Protasevich’s father told Reuters His son’s nose seemed to be broken, because he believed that confession was forced.

Exiled opposition leader Belarus’s Ikhanuskaya wrote on Twitter that Protasich տես տես տես տես տես տես տես և և և և և և և և և ոտ ոտ ոտ ոտ ոտ ոտ ոտ ոտ ոտ[terrorise] the whole country. “

On Wednesday, the Belarusian authorities, apparently trying to intimidate political opponents published footage showing the last hours of the life of the dissident Witold Ashurak. The video showed that the activist, who died on May 21 for unknown reasons, could not stand alone in a prison cell and collapsed twice in the first person.

Dmitry Stakhovsky, an 18-year-old orphan, committed suicide on Tuesday after being charged with crimes similar to Protasich, blaming “moral pressure” by investigators on his death, according to a social media post.

Lithuania’s exiled opposition leader Sviatlana ik ikhanuskaya reacts to this week’s events. He says Protasichi և Sapega’s confessions are an attempt to intimidate “the whole country” © AP

“It’s a logical continuation of what we’ve seen over the past few months. “No one is stopping the repression, there are no grounds for that, they are continuing,” said Artyom Schreibmann, a non-resident Minsk resident of Carnegie Moscow. “Society is not rising again, so far the new sanctions have been completely unserious. So why should he stop? ”

The arrest of Protasich means an increase in Lukashenko’s willingness to pursue dissidents abroad, Schreibmann said. Russia’s AD B arrested two opposition figures in Moscow and handed them over to the Minsk KGB in April. Shortly afterwards, a senior Belarusian security official promised to “find and clear” those responsible for the August protests.

EU refuses to recognize election after Lukashenko claims defeat Ik ikhanuskaya, who fled to Lithuania under pressure from the KGB.

French President Emmanuel Macron has invited Ikhanuskaya to attend next month’s G7 summit in London as the bloc discusses economic sanctions on a list of Belarusian companies opposed to opposition oligarchs.

Hopes for a settlement, however, have been dashed Russia’s continued support for Lukashenko, who claims that Western intelligence is destabilizing Belarus in the guise of a “hybrid war” attempt against Moscow.

President Vladimir Putin has set aside strained personal relations with Lukashenko to offer billions of dollars in Russian loans to Belarus. He will meet with his counterpart in Sochi on Friday.

Although Moscow is said to be silently pursuing Lukashenko’s departure following a constitutional referendum, the Kremlin’s continued support is enough to encourage Lukashenko to cut off his nose from the west, Shraibman said.

Instead, EU sanctions could “irritate Lukashenko, he could escalate,” Schreibmann said.

“In no way can he soften his position without involving Russia in the process or raising costs for Russia. “As long as Lukashenko feels that Russia supports him, he will do whatever he wants.”

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