When the plane carrying the wanted journalist was forced to land in Minsk on Sunday, and Roman Protasevich (26) was sent straight into a dark prison cell, it was clear once again: Alexander Lukashenko is the boss.
Today, Russian President Putin invited Vladimir to a meeting in Sochi, where he will try to cement the good relationship with his most important backer.
But last summer, everything looked completely different. Most of them thought the 66-year-old president would soon fall. Hundreds of thousands of protesters who demanded change and democracy will prevail.
Then everything changed
We go back to August of last year. It was a hot morning at the MZKT Large Tractor Wheel Factory southeast of the Belarusian capital Minsk.
A week ago, Lukashenko ran again in the presidential election, winning more than 80 percent of the vote. According to official figures, no one really believed them, neither in Belarus nor abroad.
Now the president came to talk about himself. Workers of large state-controlled companies in Belarus have long supported Lukashenko, who ensured safe jobs and a reasonably predictable future.
But things have changed now.
Lukashenko kept his head calm
While Lukashenko was standing there in his white shirt and talking about it as long as you didn’t kill me, there would be no new elections, shouts started to appear.
“Liar. Get off.” Gradually, more and more people joined. This was the moment when everything could change in Belarus, which is often portrayed as the last dictatorship in Europe.
Had the emotional Alexander Lukashenko chosen to go into a direct confrontation with the workers at the MZKT Wheel Factory, perhaps by sending several security guards to the workers, or even using weapons, it is quite possible that he would have provoked a reaction that no one knows where he ended up.
Although he quarreled with some workers at the factory, and later showed up with his 16-year-old son Nikolai with a Kalashnikov automatic rifle, he paused so much that he avoided a conflict that he might not be able to control. .
Many of us who watched the drama in Belarus, where hundreds of thousands demonstrated peacefully in the streets, believed at that time in August that it had to end now. Finally, after 26 years as president, Lukashenko was forced to relinquish power.
Tired of opposition
But Lukashenko and his regime managed to hold the ranks together during these critical weeks. The tactic was to exhaust the opposition and then let the powerful security apparatus slowly do its job. Through the arrests and harassment of opponents of the regime.
Many believed this was a tactic that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s envoy whispered in his ear by Lukashenko. They flocked to Minsk as the situation escalated after the presidential election on August 8.
An activist dies in Belarus after being beaten by masked men
On September 7, 2020, Maria Kolesnikova, one of the leading figures in the opposition, was regularly kidnapped and tried to drive her out of the country.
Thus, she became one of several hundred opposition political prisoners in Belarus. Opposition candidate Svetlana Tikanovskaya is in exile in Lithuania and her husband Sergey is among the political prisoners awaiting verdict.
He had to flee so that his daughter Ursula would not be born in prison
Now they have another company. The 26-year-old Roman Protasevich spent most of his life trying to overthrow Alexander Lukashenko and turn Belarus into an almost civilized European country.
The internet platform Nexta, which he helped build, was instrumental in mobilizing crowds for the demonstrations against Lukashenko in 2000.
“I would have forced the plane to land if I knew.”
So it was not surprising that Lukashenko snatched during his speech to Parliament on Wednesday. Had he known that the journalist had been on a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius on May 23, he would have forced it to land, and the president slammed it.
But he is assured Not He learned that Protasevic was on board the plane, and that the reactions that came after what many describe as “kidnapping a country” is an attempt to wage a mixed war against Belarus.
Not unexpectedly, Lukashenko ruled out that what the European Union and the West are doing in Belarus is in fact a prelude to an attack on the East. Against Russia.
And once again, Lukashenko received full support for his actions from the Russian authorities. Once again: Not too surprising.
The pilot asked questions about the bomb threat prior to the contested emergency landing
In the tense atmosphere now prevailing between Russia, the European Union, NATO and the United States, Belarus is a piece that Russia does not want to escape from.
Although the relationship between Alexander Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin was not always good, today the Russian authorities see no alternative to the current Belarusian leader.
This is despite the fact that Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and other opposition leaders in Belarus assert that they want a good relationship with Moscow.
Will there be new protests?
Tikanovskaya and the opposition called for new protests and demonstrations. But as it appears today, Alexander Lukashenko may be right for now when he told Parliament on Wednesday that there would be no more protests.
But now he is running a police state without confidence in large sections of the population. So things can change quickly.
There are many indications that this will not happen until Russia and Vladimir Putin see an alternative to the Lukashenko they trust and ensure that Belarus is in place. As a buffer for security policy against NATO and the United States.
The future of Roman Protasevich, flute player Maria Kolesnikova and other political prisoners in Belarus looks very bleak now.