Brutal Police Crackdown Follows Rigged Belarus Election
The streets of Minsk, the Stalinesque capital city of Belarus, are quiet tonight. But last night was quite a different story.
After declaring victory in his fourth rigged election, Alexander Lukashenko, the country’s autocratic ruler, deployed police to brutally dispatch tens of thousands of protesters who converged on the capital’s main square. Hundreds of people were arrested. Hundreds more were beaten so badly that broken arms and bloody heads were a common sight. Seven out of the nine Belarusan presidential candidates were also arrested.
Vladimir Neklyayev, a leading opposition candidate, was severely beaten and rushed off to a hospital. But he wasn’t safe there; state security forces wrapped him in a blanket and dragged him away from the hospital as his wife stood by screaming. He is still missing. Journalists, even foreign reporters, were harassed, beaten and detained. Artists and actors were thrown in jail too. Authorities cracked down on the internet; Facebook, Twitter and their local equivalents were shut down and foreign news sites were blocked.
After he had his opponents beaten and arrested, Lukashenko mocked them. “What a disgrace,” he spat, “They wanted to become presidents. What kind of president are you if you are whacked in the face and you cry blue murder? Why are you howling? What kind of president are you? You should put up with it!” The despicable dictator supposedly “won” 80% of the votes. Not Saddam Hussein or Soviet-like unanimity, but pretty damn close. Of course it was all a sham. “A positive assessment of this election isn’t possible,” Geert-Hinrich Ahrens, an observer from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) grimly stated.
Lukashenko declared that “there won’t be any more muddle-headed democracy in the country.” That’s for sure. Once a part of the Soviet Union, a trip to Belarus is a journey back in time. Sure, there are Western stores and glistening new luxury cars. But there is also very little political freedom and to oppose the regime is to place yourself in harm’s way. The brutal state security forces haven’t lost a step since Soviet times. They’re even still called the KGB.
Western nations roundly condemned both the fraudulent election and the sickening violence that followed it. German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle said that “it’s not acceptable to harass, beat or arrest opposition candidates and their supporters who want to exert their right to freedom of expression.” The US Embassy declared that Washington “strongly condemns all election day violence in Belarus.”
But Luksashenko couldn’t care less. He’s been moving away from the West and cozying up to Moscow lately. Over in next-door Russia, President Dimitry Medvedev predictably said that Belarus’ disgraceful elections were an “internal affair.”
Tagged 80%, Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus, Dimitry Medvedev, former Soviet Republic, German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, hospital, internet crackdown, journalists beaten, KGB, Minsk, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, presidential candidates arrested, protesters arrested, protesters beaten, rigged election, Russia, US embassy, Vladimir Neklyayev