Lech Wałęsa on protests in Belarus: “The opposition has no structure”

The leader of the Polish peace and trade union movement Solidarność from 1980 on populism, Putin and protest.

Former Polish President Lech Wałęsa 2019 in Gdansk Photo: Matej Leskovsek

taz on the weekend: Mr. Wałęsa, If you compare the current protests in Belarus with those in Poland 40 years ago, do you see any differences or rather similarities?

Lech Walesa: Belarus is currently where we were in the 1970s. At that time we lost the big strike in the Gdańsk shipyard because we weren’t sure what we wanted. Experience taught us that we had to prepare very well for the revolution. We needed trustworthy experts at key points in the state, a realistic program and perseverance. The opposition movement in Belarus is currently acting very spontaneously, without a powerful structure and without an at least medium-term program.

Think of the structure of a free union – like Solidarność 1980?

Not necessarily. The situation in Belarus is different than it was back then. There the elections were so brazenly rigged that “the street” protested and demanded freedom and democracy. It all started with strikes against the poor working conditions. A union as a structure for the opposition was therefore an obvious choice. The Belarusians have to find their own structure.

Does Belarus have a chance at all to free itself from the poor of Russia?

I am a practitioner, politician and revolutionary, not a theorist. It’s like this: at some point Russia will have to come to terms with the rest of Europe. The time of nation states and wars is over. Today we face very different challenges than we did a century ago. No state solves global problems alone.

40 years ago The freedom and trade union movement Solidarność was founded in Gdansk. It was the first independent union in what was then the Eastern Bloc. At that time, the electrician Lech Wałęsa was at its head. His workplace was the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk.

After a setback In December 1981, when General Wojciech Jaruzelski proclaimed martial law, arrested thousands of opposition members and banned Solidarność, Poland became the first Eastern bloc country to hold free elections in 1989. Months later, the Berlin Wall fell.

From 1990 to 1995 Lech Wałęsa was President of Poland. Wałęsa is now 77 years old.

Ukraine, which began its freedom struggle more or less at the same time as Poland, is neither in the EU nor in NATO today. Did she miss her historic opportunity?

When I was President of Poland, I pursued the concept of joining NATO and the EU together – first Poland and the other Central European countries, then the Baltic republics and finally Ukraine and Belarus. But then I lost the election and didn’t have a second term. At that time the Soviet Union disintegrated. So it could have worked. I had already arranged everything, but without making a big announcement. Ukraine has not missed its historic opportunity, but is taking a different path. If the EU could supply Ukraine and Belarus with electricity, gas and oil, the two countries would be less dependent on Russia and would have more room for maneuver. But the EU is currently unable to do this.

But you still managed to negotiate the withdrawal of Soviet soldiers from Poland. How did that happen?

Don’t forget the Berlin Wall! It wouldn’t have happened without our preparatory work. The Soviet Union was then very weak and could no longer compete with the capitalist countries. At the same time, many bright minds – Polish, Russian, Lithuanian – had already studied at elite universities in the USA and also in Western Europe. They realized that the communist economic system was nowhere working, and so the Soviet politicians were no longer willing to defend the previous system. In negotiations I succeeded in getting the Soviet soldiers to withdraw from Poland in a completely peaceful manner.

And today? Do you have any advice for the opposition in Belarus?

Giving advice from outside is very difficult. You have to be on site, grasp the situation with heart and mind, sometimes speed ahead, sometimes back down and always stay in dialogue with the other side. I will be careful not to give any specific advice. But doing something against Russia is probably not recommended at the moment. Putin would not allow that. The opposition, on the other hand, could easily initiate smaller political projects and gain valuable experience.

With or without the European Union?

The EU is very weak today. There are too many antagonistic forces within the EU. It would be good if the Germans, French and Italians either reformed the EU from within or – after it had previously been destroyed by Great Britain, Poland, Hungary and the like – founded it again. As before, everyone should be able to join, including those states that previously wanted to get out. However, they would have to sign a very clear catalog of rights and obligations, compliance with which should then be strictly monitored. The farce surrounding the violation of the rule of law in Poland and Hungary and its punishment by the EU is just plain embarrassing. The Germans should finally stand by their responsibility and turn the political dwarf EU into a giant that has a say in world politics. In its current constitution, I fear the EU cannot help Belarus or Ukraine.

This text comes from the taz on the weekend. Always from Saturday at the kiosk, in the eKiosk or with a practical weekend subscription. And around the clock on Facebook and Twitter.

Are you demanding a leadership role for Germany in the EU despite the Second World War?

We are in a different era today, we are no longer waging wars, but are partners who trust each other. You know, I also lost my father in the war, and as a young man I was full of anger towards the Germans until I realized that times have changed. We Poles paid a high price, but we have to look to the future. We don’t solve global problems alone. No state does that. So we need a strong EU. The Germans should finally get to work.

For a year or two you have been wearing a T-shirt in public that says “Constitution”! Is Poland’s legal system so bad?

More and more people are falling for populists not only in Poland, but worldwide. Even in the US. The problem is: the populists’ analyzes are often correct, but their solutions are fatal. Instead of doing better than their predecessors, they destroy the previous legal system and democracy. When I was president, I was very annoyed by the judgments of some judges, but unlike the currently ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), I never tried to destroy Poland’s courts. Without respect for the constitution, the tripartite division of power and the free press, every populist country degenerates into a dictatorship. In Poland and everywhere.

The current ruling PiS is trying to eliminate you from the history of Poland and either keep silent or even replace you with another person. Does that hurt you?

Oh no. It just goes to show that I have my place in history. I feel this partly hysterical fight against me as a kind of appreciation. They can’t stand the fact that I achieved something as a simple electrician, while as a student they remained extras. They attach me to being a communist agent. Haha what a joke!

What is your balance sheet – 40 years after Solidarność
-Registration! What are you happy about to this day?

The Solidarność revolution was not about me, but about the freedom and sovereignty of Poland, including the reunification of Germany. I succeeded. And I’m very happy about that.

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Alexander Lukashenko’s crucial visit to Russia

The one-on-one will be very closed. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is received this Monday 14th by Vladimir Putin. “A working visit, without a press conference », Clarified the Kremlin. The meeting will be held in Sochi, on the shores of the Black Sea, where the Russian president has his summer residence.

→ ANALYSIS. Belarus: the regime falters

One of Alexander Lukashenko’s planes has already arrived on site on Saturday, September 12. Bodyguards and diplomats must prepare for this summit, the first to be held after a month of protest in Belarus since the highly controversial re-election, on August 9, of the omnipotent president of 66 years, including 26 who have come to power.

Sochi, the seaside city that hosted yesterday’s 2014 Olympics, has long hosted the eventful encounters between Lukashenko and Putin, punctuated by ice hockey games and tense negotiations.

The tone is often raised between the two heads of state

The Kremlin, this time, warned: no document will be signed. But one of the subjects dear to Vladimir Putin will be at the heart of the discussions: « the future development of alliance relations ”. Translation: the integration of Belarus into Russia, an old project rejected by the majority of Belarusians and which Alexander Lukashenko himself has regularly opposed. This refusal by Minsk, Moscow’s ally within the framework of its Euro-Asian union, has more than once angered the Kremlin. Behind the scenes, the tone would often be raised.

Minsk’s mistrust is all the less understood in Moscow as half of Belarusian GDP depends on the powerful neighbor. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Michoustine visited Minsk on September 3. On the menu: the refinancing of 600 million dollars of debt and the resumption of exports of Russian oil bought at low prices, refined in Belarus, then exported at market prices.

These aids maintain the survival of Belarus. And that of its president. “The visit of Michoustine is an economical first step. To resolve the political crisis, it will be directly with Putin, remember Andreï Kortounov, Moscow political scientist. Putin has never abandoned his plan to merge the two countries… ”

Strong mobilization on September 13, and 250 arrests

Since the start of the protest, Alexander Lukashenko, who before the August 9 presidential election accused Moscow of working against him, has often called Vladimir Putin. To the Russian media, he presents himself as the last bulwark before Moscow in the face of Western provocations. While the Kremlin has promised to send troops if the protest escalates.

The mobilization, precisely, is maintained, with a new major demonstration, Sunday, September 13. Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in Minsk at the call of the opposition to protest against the president. Police made 250 more arrests.

Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, for her part, called on the Russians to support her “Struggle for freedom”. “We want to keep good relations with Russia, entrusted to La Croix Pavel Latouchko, ex-minister of Alexander Lukashenko who was in opposition. The problem is that Moscow talks with the regime but not with civil society. “

→ THE FACTS. In Belarus, the regime alone facing the street

Some people suspect Moscow of having encouraged the protest in Minsk to weaken Alexander Lukashenko and force him to accept integration, a solution of last resort to save his future. A risky outcome for the two presidents: the demonstrations were until then directed against Alexander Lukashenko, without anti-Russian slogans. The merger of the two countries could pit the Belarusians against the Russians. And provoke new Western sanctions against Minsk and Moscow.

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the economy, time bomb for the regime

Foreign currencies, primarily euros and dollars, are a scarce commodity these days in Belarus. According to many accounts, you have to wait hours in front of the counter before getting the precious cash against Belarusian rubles. “Everyone buys money, individuals, companies and the banks themselves”, observes Vadim Iosub, analyst at Alpari Eurasia.

→ ANALYSIS. In Belarus, the regime’s media offensive

At the origin of the rush to the counters: the depreciation of the ruble. After losing 20% ​​of its value between February and July against the euro, the Belarusian currency again depreciated by 10% in August. The effects of the coronavirus on the local economy have been added in recent weeks to the uncertainties associated with the protest. Individuals, worried about their capital, began to change their money, which accelerated the collapse of the local currency.

For many savers, the race for currencies is accompanied by the closure of their account. « This is a political act on their part. Their approach is to shake power ”, reports economist Dmitri Kruk, researcher at the Beroc Institute. “We do not yet know how many depots have been closed. Some say 5%, which is already a lot. Banks run the risk of running out of liquidity, undermining the country’s entire financial system. »

Debt is growing

The state, which has about a month and a half of foreign exchange reserves, had to resolve to let the currency lose value. « If people want to buy dollars, let them go », said ironically Alexander Lukashenko. Problem, the fall of the ruble worsens the State debt which is 90% indexed in dollars. « And the authorities must find 1.25 billion euros by the end of the year “, continues Dmitri Kruk. An amount impossible to finance on the markets.

→ ANALYSIS. Belarus: the timid mobilization of supporters of Alexander Lukashenko

Faced with the risk of default, Alexander Lukashenko was forced to call for help Vladimir Poutine. « Only significant foreign investment could keep the economy afloat, warns Dmitri Kruk. Russia may provide the billion dollars needed to pay down debt, but it will not stand up for Belarusian state-owned enterprises. » The Kremlin has continued to reduce its direct and indirect subsidies since 2010, including the supply of oil at cut prices: crude that its neighbor refines and then exports to Europe.

Towards the end of “market socialism”

However, this financial windfall participates on the one hand in the lifestyle of the security forces with hypertrophied personnel and on the other hand makes it possible to meet the debts of collective farms and unprofitable public enterprises. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are thus artificially kept alive in the face of foreign competition. To make matters worse, digital companies, the regime’s rare economic success, say they want to leave the country if police violence continues against demonstrators.

Ultimately, it’s all Belarusian-style “market socialism”, a kind of state capitalism, where the public sector provides 70% of gross domestic product, which threatens to collapse. “The forces of the regime seem able to control the social protests, but not the economic crisis”, warns the political scientist and journalist Alexandre Papko. “After the political demonstrations, we can expect social protests in the streets. “

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Political scientist on Belarus: “Putin walking a fine line”

The EU must not leave the solution to the crisis in Belarus to Moscow, says political scientist Marie Mendras. The Kremlin doesn’t have too many options.

Uniformed men arrest a protester in Minsk Photo: Reuters

taz: Ms. Mendras, the heads of the opposition movement in Belarus are out of the country or in custody. Nevertheless, people continue to take to the streets.

Marie Mendras: I want to make something clear: we are not talking about the opposition here. Because the people who take to the streets now have won the election. They managed to unite a clear majority of the votes behind the candidacy of Svetlana Tichanovskaya. Alexander Lukashenko is no longer the President of Belarus. He stays in power illegally and through repression, the army and the police. The opposition are now the people who are still behind Lukashenko. Tichanovskaya in particular is very active. She understood that she had to be a little more direct: in her attacks on Lukashenko, but also in relation to Europe. She is now clearly saying that she needs Europe’s political support against a dictator who does not want to resign.

What will happen?

Lukashenko will not be able to hold out much longer. So we have to prepare now for a time after Lukashenko. Russian President Vladimir Putin understood this too. Therefore, he now has to think about which cards he can still play. It’s a fine line for Putin, he doesn’t have many options.

You said that a solution to the crisis in Belarus does not lie with the Kremlin. Could you explain that?

Take the experience with Ukraine: Putin creates problems only to be the one who blocks the solution to these problems. We have known that for years and we must not fall into this trap. The Kremlin does not want to keep Lukashenko in power at any cost because it cannot. Moscow has no serious plan to invade Belarus, there is no Crimea and no Donbass there. The Belarusians today are all united against the dictatorship. Russia’s ability to deploy a Moscow man there are also very limited.

Do you really believe that the Kremlin will remain passive and will not try to take control?

I hear this question often, but the Kremlin cannot act. Of course, Putin’s goal is not a democratic Belarus. But he can’t just get his way there now. Russia is not a state that is currently able to occupy a country in Europe like Belarus. But Putin is playing his strategic game with Europe and NATO by pretending that there is a geopolitical crisis in the heart of Europe and that one has to come to an understanding with him in order to solve this crisis. But this is not a geopolitical crisis, it is a crisis in Belarus. This is a peaceful popular uprising against a man who was not re-elected but still refuses to resign. The truth is that Belarus is about to leave Moscow’s sphere of influence, as Ukraine and Georgia have already done.

There is much talk these days about a common European response. But that didn’t exist anywhere else either. Why should it be any different now?

I don’t understand why the EU is always criticized. Europe reacted quickly and well. Everyone condemned the violence and electoral fraud and called for Lukashenko to resign to pave the way for new elections. At the same time, Brussels is trying to maintain a dialogue with Russia, and that is right.

Nonetheless, French President Emmanuel Macron in particular has tried very hard to improve relations with Russia in the past.

Fortunately, this is now over. It is a pity, however, that the crisis in Belarus, the repression there and the poisoning of the Kremlin critic Alexei Navalnys were necessary for the Éysées Palace to cancel the planned Franco-Russian meeting in September. The dialogue with Moscow that Macron wanted to have was a bad strategy. As someone who knows Russia well, all I can say is that Putin has never been ready for real negotiations or compromise on anything, especially Donbass. Macron was a bit naive when he assumed he could reach a real compromise with Putin.

Born in 1957, is a political scientist and works on Russia and the post-Soviet space. She conducts research at the Center national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) und lehrt am Institute of Political Studies of Paris.

At the moment it looks as if further sanctions will be imposed on Belarus, but also on Russia because of the poisoning of Navalny. Do you think sanctions are an effective means?

Sanctions were a relatively efficient means, as the example of Ukraine from 2014 shows. Economic sanctions against individuals are a powerful tool. And they are the only instrument that is not a military counter-attack. Sanctions are often criticized, but what would be the other options? In the coming weeks there will be further sanctions against Russia and the former Belarusian rulers including Alexander Lukashenko.

What opportunities does Europe have?

All those who stand behind Tichanovskaya have never called for violence. You are clearly in a position to put together a competent team to ensure a transition to a constitutional amendment and new elections in a few months. Tichanovskaya and her colleagues were always very clear: They don’t want to seize power, but rather to complete a process that will allow the Belarusians to opt for a new constitutional system and to elect their government. That is why we must now support the Coordination Council. When these people, who represent society and the electorate, have the support of Western democracies, that gives them legitimacy, authority.

And will that impress Moscow?

I think so. This shows that there is a political alternative in Belarus and that Moscow cannot stop this process. The EU must not leave Putin to solve this crisis, on the contrary: Europe must show Putin that it has the right to look after Belarus’ future. This is not interference, that is what the Kremlin propaganda wants us to believe. This is a necessary attitude to ensure that the EU’s neighbors can make their choices with confidence.

The interview was kindly arranged by the Berlin think tank Zentrum Liberale Moderne.

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Why Lukashenka has a problem with women


A clear picture of the role of women: Alexandr Lukashenka on Friday at the “Minsk Women’s Forum”
Image: dpa

The protests in Belarus are also a rebellion against Lukashenka’s patriarchy, in which women are there to bear children and please their husbands. And the dictator’s Minsk “women’s forum” is counter-revolution.

AOn Thursday evening the news got around that the Belarusian dictator had closed the borders with Lithuania and Poland. Since the rise of the protest movement against his rule, Alexandr Lukashenka has tried to conjure up a military threat from these countries and to portray his opponents as the henchmen of the “West”. Closing the border would fit the threat scenario, but would be expensive; With a view to the economic impact, Lukashenka left the borders of Belarus open in the spring, contrary to the trend in the corona pandemic. Until Friday afternoon, it was not apparent that Lukashenka would follow words with deeds. So the framework of the announcement was actually remarkable: Lukashenka spoke, allegedly spontaneously, in front of thousands of women in the capital’s Minsk arena.

The “Women’s Forum” with the motto “For Belarus” was a festival in Soviet tradition, to which participants were brought to the capital by buses from several parts of the country, placed in blocks in the arena according to the region and stopped to cheer. This resulted in a “warm, sincere and beautiful” event for state television, at which at least 13,000 of the “most proactive women in the country” had gathered, “united by a common goal: love for native Belarus, its values ​​and the desire to be in To live in one’s own peaceful, calm and stable country, to raise children and to look to the future with confidence ”. The pictures show flags waving, posters for women holding Lukashenka, most of them a bit older. But some men also showed the state television cameras in the audience; The two presenters on stage were also male, which did not prevent them from giving the audience the slogan: “We are the women of Belarus!”

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Belarus closes borders and puts army on alert

The Belarusian president, the target of six weeks of mass protests demanding his resignation, has announced that he will put troops on high alert and close the country’s borders with Poland and Lithuania.

Alexander Lukashenko’s decision reinforces the repeated message that the wave of protests is driven by the West, as it faces harsh criticism from the European Union and the United States.

“We are forced to withdraw troops from the street, put the army on high alert and close the borders in the west, mainly with Lithuania and Poland,” said Lukashenko, at an official women’s forum in Minsk.

Lukashenko also said that the Belarusian border with Ukraine will be strengthened.

“I don’t want my country to be at war. Furthermore, I don’t want Belarus, Poland and Lithuania to become a theater of military operations in which our problems will not be solved,” he said.

“Therefore, from today onwards, in front of this hall of the most beautiful, advanced and patriotic people I want to appeal to the people of Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine: stop your crazy politicians, don’t let the war start“, said.

Lukashenko did not mention neighboring Latvia, which, like Poland and Lithuania, are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

In the same forum, Lukashenko said that Belarus does not need any country to recognize its elections, in response to the European Parliament resolution, which does not accept the results of the August 9 presidential elections, which Lukashenko won with 80% of the vote and that started a wave of protests.

“We conducted the elections in accordance with the Constitution and the laws of our country and we do not need anyone’s recognition. The elections were held and are legitimate,” he said, according to the BELTA agency.

At this Thursday’s session, the European Parliament agreed that it will fail to recognize Lukashenko as President when the current term ends, on 5 November, after elections that “violate all international standards” and called on the European Union to impose sanctions on representative.

“I swear there was no lie in the elections. It is impossible to fake 80% of the elections,” added Lukashenko.

The spokesman for the head of European diplomacy also announced that Belarusian opponent Svetlana Tikhanovskaia is expected on Monday in Brussels for a meeting with European Union foreign ministers.

The opponent announced that it is preparing a list of members of the regime’s security forces responsible for the violence and arbitrary arrests, with a view to possible prosecution in the future.

Belarus has been the scene of several demonstrations since August 9, when Alexander Lukashenko won a sixth presidential term, in elections considered fraudulent by the opposition and part of the international community.

In the early days of protests, the police detained about 7,000 people and cracked down hundreds in a muscular manner, sparking international protests and the threat of sanctions.

The United States, the European Union and several neighboring countries in Belarus rejected Lukashenko’s recent electoral victory and condemned police repression, urging Minsk to establish a dialogue with the opposition.

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The League vote on Belarus is a coincidence: the party abstains on the condemnation of Lukashenko. The Pd: “How disgusting”

An almost unanimous vote: 574 yes, 37 no and 82 abstentions on sanctions for the Belarusian authorities. The European Parliament was united in its request to the other institutions of the Union. But with an important defection on the Italian political level: the abstention of the League.

Foreign

Belarus, the European Parliament does not recognize Lukashenko and calls for new elections

In Brussels, MEPs decided not to recognize Lukashenko as the president of Belarus, acknowledging that the elections violated “all internationally recognized standards”. So yes to the sanctions for the authorities responsible for the violence against those who protested in recent weeks: to make them effective, however, we need the green light of the council (and therefore of the member states of the union). On the abstention of the League, the condemnation of the Democratic Party immediately arrives: “In Brussels the League abstained on the condemnation of a dictator, how disgusting”, tweets the secretary dem Zingaretti.

Deputy Filippo Sensi stresses that Susanna Ceccardi, the candidate of the center-right in Tuscany, the region more in the balance in the next regional ones, is among the League’s MEPs. “So that it is clear which side to stand on,” he says.

And the head of delegation to the European Parliament Brando Benifei: “Salvini is the best ally of the worst dictators: after having provided political support to Orban on numerous occasions, he now refuses to condemn the Belarusian regime so as not to upset Putin”.

But there is also another case that makes the European Parliament debate. And it’s about the Next generation Eu. The attack is the president, David Sassoli: “Yesterday in the European Parliament we voted the most important measure for the Recovery Fund, a first brick. Yesterday, however, it happened that many political forces abstained and voted against, such as Forza Italia and Fratelli of Italy, They voted against the introduction of Recovery and the arrival of 209 billion. I don’t know if you realize what they did “.


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Jewish pilgrims are stuck on the border with Ukraine

Dhe Ukraine fears a rush of up to 4,000 Jewish pilgrims who want to celebrate the New Year’s festival Rosh Hashanah in the Ukrainian city of Uman as they do every year, but are not allowed to enter legally due to the corona pandemic. About 800 Hasidic pilgrims have been stuck north of Chernihiv in the no man’s land on the border between Belarus and Ukraine since Tuesday night. This emerges from reports distributed by the Ukrainian border guards.

Gerhard Gnauck

Political correspondent for Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania based in Warsaw.

One of the videos shows how the head of the border guard, General Serhiy Dejneko, explains to representatives of the pilgrims that it has long been known that citizens of other countries have not been allowed to enter since August 28th. In the meantime, pilgrims gathered in front of a chain of Ukrainian border officials, some singing and praying, while dozens of trucks that wanted to cross the border were jammed behind the chain. Kiev appealed to the Belarusian border guards not to let other travelers through.

During the course of Tuesday, a Belarusian spokesman announced that the pilgrims who were in no man’s land would be allowed back into Belarus. Dejneko expected several flights to the Belarusian capital Minsk on Tuesday and several thousand more pilgrims who wanted to travel around 700 kilometers to their destination in Ukraine through various border crossings by land.

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The governments of Israel and Ukraine – new corona record numbers have been reported from both countries for days – had jointly appealed weeks ago not to go to Uman this year. There is the grave of the tzaddik Nachman von Brazlaw (1772 to 1810), a rabbi revered by Hasidic Jews. The festival of Rosh Hashanah begins on Friday. Israel has announced that it will send its own police officers to Uman.

In the past few days, pilgrims who had already arrived at the grave in Uman tore down a cordon that had been erected because of the corona pandemic; two of those involved were expelled from Ukraine. Because it is apparently expected that pilgrims will continue to arrive, medical controls are to apply on the streets around Uman and strict regulations for crowds in the city itself.

In the past seven days, between 2,400 and 3,200 new infections per day were counted in Ukraine. That is almost four times more infections per head of the population than in Germany. The mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, said on Monday there was the “highest number of fatalities since the beginning of the pandemic” in the capital of three million people, namely eleven deaths in one day. A corona hotspot is the sparsely populated area around the western Ukrainian city of Ternopil, with around 300 new cases every day.

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Putin offers economic, political and military support to Lukashenko

A total of $ 1.5 billion for the depleted public coffers of Belarus with those who try to silence the popular discontent. One day after a new mass demonstration in the streets of Minsk showed that the dissident spirit is still very much alive in the Slavic country, President Aleksándr Lukashenko has traveled to Sochi, on the shores of the Black Sea, to meet with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, where he has received renewed promises from the Kremlin to political support, economic and even military.

Traditionally, the Government of Minsk has silenced the protests after the electoral calls by resorting to the subsidiesAlthough on this occasion, after the ravages caused by the coronavirus epidemic, the room for maneuver was non-existent. In addition to financial support, Putin has indicated that defense cooperation would continue, although he has not offered details. Hours before the visit, the Russian press had reported that Russian paratroopers would travel to the neighboring country to do joint military exercises.

On the political front, the Russian president has backed Lukashenko’s proposal to start a Constitutional reform, a process similar to that experienced by Russia during the spring and that will allow Putin to continue at the helm of the state until 2036 if that is his wish. The opposition reject outright the approach and requires the convocation of new presidential elections. All of this, as all the Russian interlocutors with whom the Belarusian leader has met, have been reiterating, has a price: “We want the Belarusians, no pressure from abroad, resolve the situation, “Putin stressed.

Cascade of accolades

For his part, Lukashenko has repeated the scene lived two weeks ago in Minsk when he met with the Russian prime minister Mikhail Mishustin, and he has not spared in praise for the neighboring country, whose government, just a few weeks ago, he accused of wanting to overthrow him. “First of all, I want to personally thank you and all the Russians who have participated in supporting us in this post-election period, and I will not list them,” he praised.

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Protests in Belarus: “This is our city”

Brutal violence against demonstrators at the “March of the Heroes” in Minsk. Ruler Lukashenko wants to show that he has the situation under control.

Do not be put off by the power of their president: protesters in Minsk Foto: Tut / AP

This is my city, I am against this occupation and of course I will go to the demo, ”says Weronika firmly. She has given up all fear, says the woman around the age of thirty, now all that remains is to drive out the usurper, that is all that counts.

The “usurper” is still-President Alexander Lukashenko. Before his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, he wants to prove to Moscow that he is master of the situation in his country. That is why he had army technology deployed early on Sunday morning on Independence Boulevard in downtown Minsk.

More stories about life in Belarus: In the “Diary from Minsk” column, Janka Belarus and Olga Deksnis report on stormy times – in German and in Russian.

Already in the morning his henchmen become active and arrest the first activists or just potential demonstrators in the outskirts who want to move to the Minsk city center for the “March of the Heroes”. “The olives are hunting again, just watch out as soon as you leave the house!” Warned the opposition Telegram channels. The “olives” are green-clad units without license plates that are considered particularly brutal. Nobody knows who they are. There is speculation as to whether these could not be the special police units that Putin had promised, which are supposedly not yet in Belarus, but are only waiting to be deployed.

Small groups of activists are surrounded and dragged into waiting buses without license plates. At least 250 arrests have to be reported by the beginning of the march. Many of them are extremely brutal. The human rights organization “Wiasna” has so far published the names of 82 arrested demonstrators.

Tens of thousands in various demonstrations

Nevertheless, the Minsk people can no longer be stopped. “This is our city!” Chant tens of thousands and set out in various demonstrations to surround Lukashenko’s residence in the Minsk suburb of Drozdy with a human chain. The main demonstration train had arrived at the Pushkinskaya subway station by the time we went to press, where the first fatality occurred in the first few days of protest.

Protester Weronika about the arrest of Maria Kolesnikova

“We don’t need leadership, we organize ourselves”

According to the Belarusian news portal, wait this Sunday tut.by Interior Ministry troops on Novosilensky Street with live ammunition on the demonstrators. There is no shooting. The regime is still primarily concerned with deterrence. “Only when martial law is proclaimed do I get scared and stay at home,” says Vova, another demonstrator. He reckons with more people on the street this Sunday than before, “because now the students and the dacha summer vacationers are back in Minsk”, says Vova. According to the opposition Internet portal, which works from Warsaw and is often somewhat optimistic charter97.org At the time of going to press, 150,000 demonstrators were on their way to Drozdy.

The arrests of other Coordination Council members last week, especially Maria Kolesnikowas, did not discourage the demonstrators. “We don’t need any leadership, we organize ourselves,” explains Weronika.

A group that calls itself the “Cyber ​​Partisans” announced on Saturday evening that it would publish lists of all police officers and security forces who were involved in the brutal operations from August 9th to 12th. The “cyber partisans” claim to have stolen internal lists through hacker attacks on the Ministry of the Interior. “This is the last moment for each of you to take the side of the people,” writes the group. Photos, private addresses, other personal details and car numbers are published. Similar lists have been circulating in special Telegram channels for over a week.

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