THE NEUTRAL ZONE
Thousands of protestors flooded Belarus streets to dispute the country’s presidential election results, leading to clashes with police and at least one death. President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko declared a “landslide” victory Monday, while opposition members claim the votes were rigged.
Belarus’s election commission called the election for Lukashenko with 80% of the vote, while Tikhanovskaya received 9.9%. Tikhanovskaya rejected the results, telling reporters Monday, “I will believe my own eyes – the majority was for us.” A former English teacher, Tikhanovskaya rose from obscurity to enter the race after her husband, who had originally intended to run, was arrested.
The Belarusian Interior Ministry said Monday roughly 3,000 people were detained following the protests Sunday night. Dozens were injured in clashes with the police and one was killed after being hit by a police van. Ivan Naskevich, the head of the Belarusian Investigative Committee, said Monday that the protests involved “attacks on law enforcement.” However, videos and photos from the nationwide protests showed police and security services using tear gas and stun grenades on protestors. Meanwhile, several Russian journalists covering the protests were either detained, deported, or went missing during the protests.
International leaders voiced concerns over the election’s outcome. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called for the European Union to hold an emergency meeting. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the EU must reconsider sanctions on Belarus that were recently lifted. Russian President Vladimir Putin stated he would like to renew plans for “more integration” between Belarus and Russia in order to begin talks on a peaceful transfer of power. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg criticized the response to protestors, saying, “NATO Allies have expressed serious concerns over the conduct of the presidential election in Belarus.”
How mass post-election protests threaten Belarus’s regime – New Statesman – 8/10/2020
The preliminary results of the elections, according to the central election committee, grant Lukashenko 80.2 percent of the vote and return him for his sixth term in office since 1994. His challenger, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, is credited with 9.9 percent. However, independent exit polls conducted outside polling stations abroad, one of the few reliable indicators of actual voting patterns given the difficulty of conducting genuine polling inside Belarus, showed an almost perfectly reversed result: 86 percent for Tikhanovskaya, 4 percent for Lukashenko, RFE/RL reported.
A dictator is back in power in Belarus. Where is the EU? – The Independent – 8/10/2020
While Lukashenko’s horrifying modes of power are no surprise after 26 years, it is painful to once again witness a weak response from European leaders against authoritarianism. The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, denounced the violence in a tweet as the Belarusian Ministry of Interior said that 3,000 people were detained after the clampdown on rallies. However, the EU’s strategy to advocate for democratic governance is both problematic and insufficient, making any statement an empty promise.
The arrest of 33 Russian mercenaries amid election chaos in Belarus is testing Putin’s patience – Business Insider – 8/10/2020
Lukashenko’s longstanding ability to play the European Union to its west and Russia to its east off one another to bring in international assistance has increasingly irritated Putin, who has long pushed for a closer economic and political union with Belarus, according to a NATO military intelligence official based in the Baltics. Talks between Belarus and Russia collapsed in January after Lukashenko reportedly demanded far more economic support from Moscow than the estimated $10 billion it receives annually in subsidized oil and natural gas imports.
Internet in Belarus cut off ‘from abroad’ rather than by authorities — president – TASS – 8/10/2020
The Internet in Belarus is turned off “from abroad,” the national authorities are not taking steps to cut it off, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Monday. “Someone is itching to do something and is calling to take to streets. They are even cutting off the Internet from abroad to incite unrest among the population. Our specialists are now studying where this block is coming from. That’s why it’s not our initiative if the Internet is not working, it’s coming from abroad,” BelTA news agency quoted him as saying.