BELARUSALERT – DAY 19

Date: 28 August 2020

Manhunt for journalists, anti-Polish rhetoric, Putin threatens to intervene

SOURCE: МАКСИМ ШИКУНЕЦ (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Belarusian regime is intensifying repressions against protesters day by day. The police detained over 250 participants of the demonstration in the center of Minsk in the evening of August 27. There was also a raid on the journalists reporting on it – at least 40 of them were detained. Most of the journalists were quickly released, but a few were arrested. The power of protests outside the capital is weakening. Alexander Lukashenko will probably continue this strategy of suppressing the protests without large-scale and brutal street pacifications. As part of this approach, he is threatening Belarusians, but mainly the West, with possible Russian intervention – the idea is to focus the EU, the US or large Western European countries on diplomatically deterring such a scenario and seeking cooperation with Moscow while Lukashenko will gradually pacify the protests without exposing himself to severe sanctions from the West. That was the aim of Vladimir Putin’s words about the reserve forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs prepared in response to Lukashenko’s request and ready for a possible transfer to Belarus. Putin’s words about the need to comply with the law in Belarus mean that Lukashenko has eventually become a hostage to Russia. Moscow reserves the right to intervene with its neighbor not only in case of external aggression, which is provided for in mutual allied agreements, but also to protect the current regime, against the opposition. Putin spoke about Belarus in an interview with Russian state television. On the same day, August 27, the heads of diplomacy of the two countries were on the phone. Sergey Lavrov and Vladimir Makei confirmed “The inadmissibility of external interference in internal political processes, attempts to destabilize the situation and the imposition of unilateral mediation services from the outside.” Minsk and Moscow accuse the West of conspiring to overthrow the Lukashenko’s regime. On August 27, he himself yet again accused Poland of counting on the annexation of the Grodno region “if Belarus breaks up.” On Thursday, the Ambassador of Belarus to Poland was summoned to the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in response to further such accusations. The MFA of Belarus responded with summoning the chargé d’affaires of the Polish Embassy in Minsk. Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General – Jens Stoltenberg called on Russia “not to interfere” in Belarus. Stoltenberg met with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on August 27. In the meantime, Ukraine strengthened its position towards the Belarusian crisis. Kiev joined the EU position expressed through the statement of August 11 on the presidential election in Belarus which declared that it was neither free nor fair. The head of Ukrainian diplomacy informed that all contacts with the Belarusian side were frozen.

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