Home WORLD Why Belarus braved the anger of the world to arrest a human rights activist | European News

Why Belarus braved the anger of the world to arrest a human rights activist | European News

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In Belarusian, “landing” may also mean “prison”.

The President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, competed for a military plane and forcibly landed a passenger plane on Sunday night because the “bomb report” proved to be false.

Ryanair flights to Lithuania must be transferred to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where the police arrested journalist Roman Protasevich on suspicion of involvement in “extremism.”

According to reports, the frightened Protasevich told a passenger in horror that law enforcement officers were about to take him away, “They will execute me here.”

He may be right, because Belarus, the last country in Europe where the last death row prisoner was kneeled on the ground and shot in the head, imposed the death penalty for “extremism”.

Even to the other victims of Lukashenko’s political cleansing, the entire operation seemed inhumane.

“How do you summon the air force to land a peace plane? This is not the way humans behave,”
Belarusian scientist Yuri Bandazhevsky told Al Jazeera.

Bandarzevsky himself fled to neighboring Ukraine because his research on the consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Belarus contradicted official data.

So why is the 66-year-old leader so eager to “land” Protasevich, the 26-year-old critic who was born a year after he was in power?

What does “landing” mean to them that the former Soviet Union is still “conquering” 10 million Eastern European countries?

Analog and digital

Protasevich protested against Lukashenko from an early age. He was kicked out of a university for fear of arrest and fled to Poland.

Last year, he was the editor of “Nexta”, a telegram and YouTube channel that reported and helped coordinate Lukashenko’s months-long large-scale opposition protests after the sixth presidential election in August 2020. activity.

Since 1994, the former collective farm manager has ruled Belarus and has been called the “last dictator” of Europe.

His opponents and Western governments viewed most of his election victories as “manipulation” and “unfair.”

In Europe, Lukashenko’s rule seems anachronistic-some even say “similar.”

Nexta is his worst figure and foe from generation to generation.

The name of the channel is a pun, between “next” (such as “next generation”) and “nehta”, or “someone” in Belarusian (such as “anonymous”).

The channel started operating in 2015 as a harmless channel for music videos.

But one of the songs, aptly named “No Choice,” described Lukashenko’s presidential campaign and immediately aroused the outrage of security agencies.

Blogger and activist Roman Protasevich (Roman Protasevich), accused of participating in an unauthorized protest against the Kurapaty Reserve, arrives at the court in Minsk, Belarus, on April 10, 2017 [File: Stringer/Reuters]

The channel started publishing politicized content, such as video More than 5.5 million death sentences have been recorded in Belarus.

After anti-Lukashenko protests broke out in August 2020, Nexta became their main mouthpiece.

Anyone can anonymously provide text messages, photos or videos to the channel, which makes it the most effective tool for hundreds of thousands of protesters to gather across Belarus and face the riot police who beat, detain and torture them.

With the Nexta feed, they can find out if the police are approaching them during the journey. They can escape and regroup to find out where the detained friend was taken and what happened.

The channel symbolizes the possibility of digital warfare over the political dinosaurs, and Protasevich is part of it.

Between late August and September, Lukashenko’s government seemed doomed to failure.

His main supporters-workers from state-owned, Soviet-era factories and factory workers who received modest but stable salaries-joined the rally or started a strike.

But the protesters have no leaders.

The hopeful and political newcomer Svetlana Tikhanovskaya of the presidential candidate ranked second with 10% of the vote on August 9. get away To neighboring Lithuania, and other more experienced leaders were afraid to return to Belarus to lead the rally.

In October, a Minsk court declared Nexta an “extremist” and listed its staff as “terrorists.”

Russian rescue

At the same time, Russia, Belarus’s neighbors and allies, bailed Lukashenko.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Vladimir Putin) provided a large number of loans and sent a group of experienced reporters from the Kremlin-controlled TV network. They helped change The official Belarusian media reported on the protests.

For decades, Belarus has been hopelessly dependent on Russia economically.

Most of its exports go there, and thousands of Belarusians work in construction or agriculture in Russia.

For decades, Moscow has provided loans and cheap crude oil to the Lukashenko government for processing and resale to Ukraine and the European Union.

Belarusian companies also relabeled and reselled European food that Russia had banned due to Western sanctions on Crimea. Russians still joke about shrimp and Italian cheese “made” in Belarus.

It is foreseeable that the Kremlin did not join the choir that condemned the landing of the Western government.

Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitri Peskov, told reporters on Monday’s conference call: “In this case, there are a lot of controversial remarks. We don’t want to participate in this game, competition condemns or Support anyone.”

Blind revenge

The landing of the plane and arrest of Protasevich seemed unreasonable.

The protests against Lukashenko have been quelled, and the exiled opposition leaders appear helpless and unable to stop the purge or trigger further unrest.

The entire team of Channel Nexta has relocated to Poland, and their family bears the brunt of Lukashenko’s anger.

According to a government decree, Protasevich’s father, a retired colonel, was deprived of his military rank in early May.

For some Belarusians who grew up under Lukashenko, landing was a personal vendetta.

“This is crazy blind revenge,” Jan Khadkevich, a Belarusian IT expert currently living in Israel, told Al Jazeera.

He said that Lukashenko “will not stop revenge for those who support him.”

Analysts said that the landing was two pieces of information for his friends and enemies.

“This is a political message for the trendy Belarusian political immigration, on the other hand, for his supporters, the so-called “election swamp”,” said Igar Tyshkevich, a Belarusian analyst based in Ukraine. ) Tell Al Jazeera.

He said: “Information is a powerful government, and it may affect anyone.”



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