What Belarus Needs
As Belarus's peaceful protest movement continues to challenge Aleksandr Lukashenko's dictatorship, pressure is building not just on the regime but also on outside powers. While the world must tread carefully, it also can and should do more than simply cheer Belarus on.
MINSK – On August 25, the anniversary of Belarus’ declaration of independence from the USSR, the country’s peaceful protesters enjoyed a brief respite. Although President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s regime is not keen on this holiday, even the security forces understood that openly attacking Belarusian citizens on such an occasion would be awkward. Besides, the authorities had already blocked off Independence Square, the main gathering site for protests in Minsk.
By the next day, the authorities were back to exhibiting little restraint. Though the riot police (the OMON) are not as brutal as they were in the immediate aftermath of the August 9 presidential election, they are still breaking up demonstrations and arresting protesters in droves.
At one point, around 100 people were trapped by police in a church on Independence Square, which attracted still more demonstrators to the scene outside. After more than 1,000 people had shown up, the OMON corralled them like cattle and began carting them off. Some 20 journalists were also arrested, though most were released after the authorities checked their accreditations and the contents of their phones.