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Belarus

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

From Lviv, Worrying New Signs That Belarus Is Set To Join The War

After Minsk recalled all its embassy staff from Ukraine over the weekend, additional reports now show evidence around the northwest territory that Alexander Lukashenko may be ready to join Putin in the assault on the southern neighbor.

LVIV — Here, distinguishing between what’s true and false is particularly difficult — and particularly important. The first question is to understand if something has been said to provoke a reaction.

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One local news sources in Lviv, Zaxid reported this weekend, citing Ukrainian military sources: “According to Ukrainian intelligence, in the next one or two days, Belarus will enter the war alongside Russia.”

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What Putin Feared Most About Ukraine: It's A European Democracy

For authoritarian leaders from Beijing to Moscow, it’s unbearable that democratic institutions like the European Union succeed. So it is vital that we Europeans build measures to protect democratic sovereignty.

-Analysis-

PARIS — For a dictatorship to endure, it needs more than just surveillance and terror. It must also be able to convince the people it enslaves that their future, in a regime of freedom, would not be sufficiently better to justify taking the risk of rebellion.

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So dictatorships have always done everything possible to discredit any neighboring society their subjects could look to for a comparison. Before starting the war, Nazi Germany spent its time denouncing the weaknesses of European and American democracies and ridiculing their leaders. It must be admitted that the latter provided it with good arguments to do so.

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Putin's Puppet - Or Worse? Lukashenko Is The Real Wild Card On Ukraine

With Russian troops now deployed through Belarus, the risk is growing of an invasion through Ukraine’s northern border. Vladimir Putin’s regional strategy and Alexander Lukashenko’s dictatorial demands are not always what they seem.

-Analysis-

Ukrainians have a joke that started in the 1990s: Russia will never feel ashamed as long as there is Ukraine, and Ukraine will never feel ashamed as long as there is Belarus.

This bit of dark humor used to reflect the economic situation in the former Soviet republics. But somewhere in the interval, after the two democratic revolutions in Ukraine, in 2004 and 2014, we acquired a different vision of things, a sense of direction and demand from society. It was as if we broke away and swam in the opposite direction, away from where Russia was heading … leading Belarus by the hook.

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Greater Russia? Four Scenarios For Putin’s Expansionist Ambitions

A mind map of the Russian leader’s possible plans to increase his influence, and expand his territory.

Vladimir Putin has always had his eye on the neighborhood.

In Georgia, the border with Russia has effectively been controlled by Moscow’s FSB security services since 2008. Washington this week accused Russian agents of recruiting pro-Kremlin Ukrainian operatives to take over the government in Kyiv and cooperate with a Russian occupying force. Meanwhile, all of Belarus has been on a short leash for two decades.

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Geopolitics
Anna Akage

Belarus: 18 Years For Tikhanovsky, Grim Prospects For Democracy

The jail sentence against the opposition leader is a clear sign that strongman Lukashenko is not looking back.

-Analysis-

Headlines in the West about this week’s sentencing of Sergei Tikhanovsky identified him as “husband of opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.” While it is of course true, the description is also wholly insufficient.

Indeed it is worth remembering who Tikhanovsky was — and is — now that a Belarusian court has sentenced him to 18 years of hard time in a prison colony.

Tikhanovsky was a popular blogger who’d gained a national following criticizing the government and sharing stories of the struggles of ordinary Belarusians, and had dared to announce his candidacy in the spring of 2020 to challenge longtime strongman ruler Alexander Lukashenko in presidential elections.

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Geopolitics
Nikolaus Doll

Diplomacy 101 In Belarus: Talking To Bad People Is Part Of The Job

A German politician lashed out after Angela Merkel spoke on the phone with Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko. But like in other hot spots, avoiding the worst along the Belarus-Poland border means casting aside moral superiority and naiveté.

BERLIN — It may well be that in just a few weeks there will be a Green Party politician at the helm of the German diplomacy. It may be co-party leader Annalena Baerbock, or someone else. Either way, what would it mean if the foreign minister was from the Green Party?

Well, we may get a hint of what could happen by looking at Green politician Omid Nouripour's reaction to outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel's actions regarding the refugee crisis at the Polish-Belarusian border. It does not bode well.

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In The News
Jane Herbelin, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

Modi Bows To Farmers, Belarus Camps Cleared, Extra-Long Eclipse

👋 Dia dhuit!*

Welcome to Friday, where Indian farmers win a major victory against the Modi government after a year of protests, Austria announces a full lockdown and mandatory vaccines and the world is treated to the longest lunar eclipse in nearly 600 years. We also have a feature story from Jeune Afrique magazine that traces the international origins of twerking.

[*Gaelic]

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In The News
Jane Herbelin, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger

Russia Space Blast Endangers Astronauts, Belarus Border Clashes, Leo’s Beach

👋 ሰላም!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Russia is under fire for blowing up a satellite in space, clashes erupt at the Poland-Belarus border and Leo's Beach opens again. Courtesy of German daily Die Welt, we also look at the reasons behind the major discrepancies in COVID-19 vaccination rates across Europe.

[*Selam, Amharic - Ethiopia]

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Migrant Lives
Wojciech Czuchnowski

The Other Scandal At The Poland-Belarus Border: Where's The UN?

The United Nations, UNICEF, Red Cross and other international humanitarian organizations seem to be trying to reach the Polish-Belarusian border, where Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko is creating a refugee crisis on purpose.

WARSAW — There is no doubt that the refugees crossing the Belarusian border with Poland — and by extension reaching the European Union — were shepherded through by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. There is more than enough evidence that this is an organized action of the dictator using a network of intermediaries stretching from Africa and the Middle East. But that is not all.

The Belarusian regime has made no secret that its services are guiding refugees to the Polish border, literally pushing them onto (and often, through) the wires.

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Belarus
Meike Eijsberg

Europe Against Belarus — How A Sprinter Became The New Catalyst

A virtual unknown to most of the world a few days ago, Belarusian sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya is now at the center of an Olympic drama that has spilled over into the realm of geopolitics.

On Sunday afternoon, Kristina Timanovskaya, a 24-year-old sprinter, was taken to the Haneda Airport in Tokyo by two attendants from the Belarusian team. It would be the beginning of the most politically charged episode of the 2021 Summer Games, which has the potential to carry over into high-stakes diplomacy long after the closing ceremony.


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Belarus
Thomas d'Istria

Maria Kolesnikova: A Final Stand Of The Belarusian Resistance

The shocking, mid-flight capture of a dissident journalist brings new attention to the repression taking place in Belarus, where another prominent political prisoner Kolesnikova has been locked up for months.

MINSK — Eight months before journalist Roman Protasevich was dragged from a commercial flight that Belarusian authorities essentially "hijacked," an even more prominent opponent of strongman Alexander Lukashenko's decades-old regime was seized in the middle of a street in Minsk by a group of masked men, presumably KGB agents.

Just before dawn the next day, the detainee — professional flautist and former presidential candidate Maria Kolesnikova — found herself at the Ukranian border with a decision to make: Would she do as her captors wanted and leave Belarus? Instead, the 39-year-old political dissident tore apart her passport, effectively choosing prison over exile.

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Belarus
*Anna Zafesova

Lukashenko To Putin: A New Cold War, Or Something Worse?

Western media like to run headlines warning of a “new Cold War” every time a new conflict or act of repression occurs in post-Soviet authoritarian, But Belarus’ brazen intercepting of a Ryanair jet is something that never would have happened on either sid

-Analysis-

Is history repeating itself, only this time as a farce?

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Belarus
Thomas d'Istria

In Belarus, Purpose And Method In Hunting Down Demonstrators

Alexander Lukashenko's regime is sending more and more protesters to prison to try to prevent a new mass mobilization.

MINSK — The welcoming committee waiting for Angelina Serzhan when she was released from prison on Feb. 14 was limited to her parents, who were happy ... and worried. The hour of Serzhan's release had been postponed at the last moment. An argument soon broke out between the reunited family. "My father told me that I was responsible because I had worn politically incorrect socks," says the 20-year-old. She had taken part in the demonstrations demanding the resignation of President Alexander Lukashenko, who was re-elected on Aug. 9, 2020. She had expected to be arrested one day by the special riot police (OMON), but certainly not because of her socks.

On Jan. 30, police officers put her in a van while she was crossing a park in the capital. The reason? Serzhan, who studies fine arts in Minsk, was wearing white and red socks, the colors of the former flag of the Belarusian People's Republic. This flag became the symbol of the protest movement. At the verdict of her trial, on Skype, she was sentenced to 15 days of detention for "participation in a mass event not authorized by the authorities."

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Belarus
Kirill Krivosheyev

Lukashenko Threats Force Hand Of Belarus Opposition

The opponents of ‘Europe’s last dictator’ are trying to avoid loss of life and focusing new energy on labor strikes.

Two weeks have passed since the presidential election in Belarus, the results of which are disputed by the opposition. Despite the large turnout for Sunday" protests, there are signs that the movement against longstanding leader Alexander Lukashenko may be gradually dying down.

Proclaimed president of Belarus for a sixth time, Lukashenko is busy attempting to regain the initiative with the help of alternative pro-government demonstrations among his supporters — along with grim warnings that order would be restored in the country.

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Belarus
Christophe Ayad

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya Interview: Fear Has Changed Sides

Forced into exile in Lithuania after the contested Aug. 9 Belarusian presidential election, Tikhanovskaya is not giving up the struggle to push strongman Alexander Lukashenko from power.

VILNIUS — After 10 days of silence, officially due to a quarantine, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya is making up for lost time. Spontaneous and initially shy, the 37 year-old surprise candidate for the Belarusian presidential election is becoming more and more assertive, revealing an iron will. Currently a refugee from her homeland, in Vilnius, Lithuania, and living with her two children, Tikhanovskaya has suddenly found herself as the top opponent of the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko. She met recently with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, who said he was "impressed."

In an Aug 25 interview with Le Monde, Tikhanovskaya said she continues to rely on peaceful demonstrations and strikes to bring down the man described as "the last dictator in Europe."

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BBC
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank and Manon Dambrine

Thailand To Belarus: The Divides Of Democracy Protesters

In two very different parts of the world, seemingly impenetrable authoritarian regimes suddenly appear under siege by popular democratic uprisings. But as protesters take to the streets in Belarus and Thailand — and garner widespread international support — it still remains unclear if they'll be able to turn their mass demonstrations into tangible change.

Flawed democracy, military rule: Thailand, which for years has vacillated between periods of a flourishing if flawed democracy and straight-out military rule, has been run by generals who took over in a 2014 coup and suspended the constitution. The junta has faced sporadic protests, but General-turned-Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's victory for another four-year tem in a sketchy 2019 general election did not cause a major stir, until the recent unrest.

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