Belarus is undergoing perhaps its most serious political crisis since independence. This eastern European country of nearly 10 million has been ruled by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka since 1994. The former collective farm manager is a great survivor. For over 20 years he has outmanoeuvred political opponents, playing off Russia against the European Union and cracking down on dissent with ruthless efficiency. In the international press, he is known as Europe’s last dictator. Meanwhile, he has held absolute power over Belarus, and expected his rule to continue.
Only one election in Belarus has ever been judged free and fair by international observers. Lukashenka appeared committed to continuing that tradition, breezing through elections in August 2020 to secure a sixth consecutive term as president. One by one, his most promising challengers were ejected from the race. The popular blogger Syarhei Tsikhanouski was detained at the end of May 2020 on suspicion of being a foreign agent. The businessman Viktar Babaryka, whose candidacy was rejected, was detained in mid-June. In late July, the entrepreneur Valery Tsepkalo, whose candidacy was likewise rejected, fled to Russia fearing political persecution. Sporadic street protests began to be held in June. The protesters were arrested and Lukashenka reacted as expected — by deriding them as the paid lackeys of undefined foreign powers.
But when Tsikhanouski’s wife, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, registered as a presidential candidate in his place, the opposition to Lukashenka was able to unite around a new figure. Tsikhanouskaya’s goal was simple: to resign after six months, by which time free and fair elections would be held. But when the official results were announced on the morning of August 10, Belarusians found them implausible. Lukashenka had allegedly received 80 percent of the vote compared to just ten percent for Tsikhanouskaya.
The situation has since deteriorated. Tsikhanouskaya has fled to neighbouring Lithuania. Thousands of Belarusians have been protesting across the entire country, which has seen internet shutdowns, labour unrest, a crackdown on independent journalists, and credible accounts by detained protesters of torture at the hands of the security services. Several protesters are reported to have been killed in clashes with riot police, and at least one has died in prison. Many observers now believe that whatever goodwill there once was towards Lukashenka has evaporated. If he rules, he will depend on fear to a degree unprecedented by Belarusian standards. His opponents are all too aware of that prospect.
With growing pressure and sanctions from Western powers, compromise looks improbable, as protesters and the opposition now demand nothing less than a full recount of the results and Lukashenka’s resignation as president of Belarus.
Stories about Belarus In Turmoil
The hacker collective said it would be prepared to hand over encryption keys if 50 Belarusian political prisoners were released and the presence of Russian troops in Belarus was “prevented.”
The short videos, used to promote pro-government channels, feature opposition members and independent journalists imprisoned by the Lukashenka regime in what look like forced confessions made under duress.
"The Belarusians have re-envisioned their national identity, giving birth to a new civil society and reformatting social processes that generate new patterns of behavior."
The EU had previously accused Belarus' Lukashenka of flying in migrants from the MENA region and South Asia and bringing them to the EU's borders to retaliate against sanctions.
The websites of Deutsche Welle, Current Time and the employees and readers of BelsatTV and NEXTA are the latest targets in Belarus' ongoing crackdown on independent media and free expression.
Drawings sent to friends and family by Belarusian political prisoners, detained in a crackdown after the 2020 elections, provide an insight into their lives.
While it's not clear whether the Belarusian police will actually be able to dispense prison terms, "nobody can be sure" they won't be criminally charged for subscribing to Telegram channels.
The liquidation of Radislava is part of an ongoing crackdown on NGOs, independent media, and activists in Belarus that intensified this summer following a year of protests against fraudulent elections.
The songs of protest that have become some the most vital symbols of the 2020 Belarusian revolution are varied in their origins and surprising in their complexity.
A year after disputed presidential elections in Belarus, a Georgian-Belarusian security cooperation agreement has come into force. Critics fear the treaty could help Minsk target political dissidents residing in Georgia.
The ruling applies to every single piece of content on the Tut.by and Zerkalo.io websites, as well as to all content posted on their social media channels.
Shyshou, who left Belarus in the autumn of 2020 fearing state persecution, founded the Belarusian House in Ukraine, an organisation supporting Belarusian citizens fleeing regime persecution.
24-year-old Krystsina Tsimanouskaya said she was not worried about being kicked off the national team, but was afraid she would be imprisoned once she arrived in Belarus.
Since the start of July, dozens of civil society organisations and independent media outlets in Belarus have faced law enforcement raids, searches and staff detentions.
Tut.by editors removed virtually all of the content published on most of their social media channels in 2020 and the first half of 2021, at the height of the post-election protests.
Most Belarusians, including many foreign residency permit holders, have been temporarily banned from going abroad, while new EU air space restrictions further narrow travel options to and from Belarus.
Pratasevich was formerly an administrator of NEXTA-Live, the Telegram channel covering the anti-government protests in Belarus. He is currently editor-in-chief of Belarus Golovnogo Mozga, another independent media outlet.
Cellebrite, an Israeli software company known for making tools used to extract data from smartphones, has announced it will halt sales to Russian and Belarus state bodies and law enforcement.
As the space for free expression in Belarus narrows, many journalists and artists who covered the protests are awaiting trial.
Belarus faces a stalemate: protesters cannot take power by force, the authorities cannot disperse them by force. But in the long term, Alyaksandr Lukashenka's rule looks precarious.
As Belarusans continue to fill the streets in protests against Alyaksandr Lukashenka, a hyper-local movement is forming a new civic culture.