BELARUSALERT – DAY 77 & 78
Date: 26 October 2020
Tsikhanouskaya’s General Strike
On Sunday, about 100,000 people attended the People’s Ultimatum rally in Minsk. The militia used stun grenades against protesters in at least two locations in the city. When people ran away, scared by the explosions, officers were grabbing them and escorting to the militia vehicles. During the protests on Sunday over 500 people were arrested. On Sunday, October 25, the ultimatum given by Tsikhanouskaya to Lukashenko expired. Of course, Lukashenko did not meet the demands, so Monday, October 26, was to be the beginning of a general strike. Moreover, the opposition leader called on private business to support the national strike. In the morning, some employees of large companies, such as Grodno Azot, Minsk Automobile Plant (MAZ) or Minsk Tractor Works (MTZ), did not start their work, instead organizing a so-called sitting strike on the premises of their firms. Students at several universities went on strike in a similar way. Several thousand people took to the streets of Minsk: protesters supporting the strike in this way, participants of the March of Pensioners in addition to students. Over 300 demonstrators were detained in Minsk, Brest, Grodno, Mogilev and Lida on Monday. If the opposition hoped that the strike would turn into a real general strike on its first day, it was wrong. Indeed, the authorities admitted that there had been “some unrest in the factories,” but they assured that it did not cause any economic damage. As the Minister of Industry said, state enterprises were working as usual and production was not disrupted. The strike took place only in some companies. One of the main reasons why the protests, which have lasted for more than two months, have not led to the collapse of the regime, is the attitude of the law enforcement. The KGB, the militia, OMON – all maintain total loyalty to Lukashenko. It is no coincidence that recently Tsikhanouskaya started to address them directly. On Sunday she called upon the law enforcement to switch sides and join the protests. They are defending Lukashenko for fear that after the fall of the regime, they will be held accountable for their brutal actions. Not without significance is also their privileged social status (e.g. high wages) as well as ideological work on the personnel. There is no shortage of political officers who convince, for example, that the opposition is in the pocket of the West. With the loyalty of the law enforcement and the support of Russia, Lukashenko managed to control the situation in the country for the last few weeks to such an extent that the general strike turned out to be such in name only. There are many indications that the opposition decided to take such a decisive step too late. Considering the scale of social mobilization, such an initiative would have been successful about a month ago. Currently, Lukashenko seems to be in control of the situation. However, he has already lost the support of the majority of his fellow citizens for good. The protests will be repeated, slowly weakening the regime – Lukashenko’s departure, which seemed so close in mid-August, was only postponed.
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