Is the Ryanair incident giving the Belarusian opposition the influence they need?
More than 400 political prisoners and 30,000 people arrested: these are the results of Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s brutal response to the protests that started in Belarus last year.
Today, you can be fined for hanging socks, umbrellas or linen if they wear the national colors red and white used by the Belaurs opposition. The candies wrapped in red-white-red wrappers were even withdrawn from stores.
At the end of last year, it appeared that Belarusian authorities had succeeded in suppressing the protests. In winter, the country’s nascent democratic movement no longer had the strength to continue the peaceful protests that had taken place between August and October. Instead, international politics became the main arena for the competition.
Today, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, leader of the opposition in exile in Belarus, is trying to diplomatically isolate the regime. She and her team are busy visiting European capitals and meeting with US and Canadian officials, pushing for measures that will put pressure on the Lukashenka government.
Despite the extent of internal repression, sanctions have been introduced slowly and selectively. For the Belarusian opposition, international expressions of “deep concern” have long become an ironic meme.
“The EU never reacts quickly”, mentionned Franak Viačorka, councilor of Tsikhanouskaya. “The adoption of sanctions, like the approval of any diplomatic initiative, takes a long time. It will take several months for European structures to do so, and a few more months before these measures take effect and have some effect. “
The EU’s response so far, which has been to introduce targeted sanctions against Lukashenka and 87 other government figures, as well as seven organizations, has been relatively mild.
After the violence and repression that accompanied the 2010 elections, for example, the bloc imposed sanctions on 158 people. Denis Melyantsov, a political scientist who has participated in “normalization” efforts between Belarus and the EU in recent years, suggests this coronavirus and the “Russian factor” may have played a role in softening the international response, despite the fact that the repression is stronger this time.
This time around, European governments and institutions have chosen a more positive agenda, giving moral support to the Belarusian democratic movement, hosting Tsikhanouskaya at the highest level, giving awards to the country’s democratic leaders and supporting the organizers. opposition based abroad.
Two organizations that work with Tsikhanouskya, the Foundation for Cultural Solidarity and the Sports Solidarity Fund, have tried to attribute a cost to the Belarusian state’s actions – such as preventing pro-regime figures from participating in Eurovision and the relocation of the world of ice hockey. Minsk Championship in Riga.