Lukashenko the Impotent
The Belarusian security services have largely given up on trying to quell the protest movement through violence, and are now pursuing a law-and-order strategy that focuses on controlling symbolic public spaces. But this approach, too, has failed, because it is obvious to everyone that the emperor has no clothes.
MINSK – Things are not going Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s way. Since the fraudulent presidential election on August 9, the security services have been trying to carry out Lukashenko’s order to end the peaceful protests against his regime. In recent days, riot police (OMON) have returned to the streets and resumed arresting protesters, but most detainees are now being fined rather than beaten. The authorities have also hounded journalists, revoking accreditations and deporting those without the proper papers.
To create the impression that the regime has regained control of the country’s public spaces, the authorities last week rushed to disperse each new demonstration in Independence Square. But they were met by masses of Belarusian women. On August 29, some 10,000 people turned out, leading the OMON to scramble for control, barking orders over loudspeakers and issuing violent threats.
In an attempt to round up the women demonstrators, the police barricaded the city’s main squares, stopping traffic. But the women were not intimidated. They marched straight down Independence Avenue to Yakub Kolas Square, where they spread from the sidewalks into the street itself, surrounding the police vehicles there.