Lukashenka is turning back the clock to before 2020 as security forces dismantle infrastructure supporting vulnerable groups
Aliaksandar Lukashenka continues to attempt to compel society to acquiesce to his indefinite retention of the presidency by repression, depoliticisation of society and refusal to engage in dialogue with opponents. Meanwhile, the ruling class is focused on its own security and ignoring the needs of vulnerable groups as security forces dismantle solidarity structures and eliminate civil society organisations.
During his address to the media last week, Lukashenka reiterated his mantra about external causes of the political crisis, the marginal appeal of opponents and his own convincing victory in the 2020 elections. The Belarusian leadership is trying to consolidate the state apparatus and its remaining supporters with visions of external threats and harsh suppression of public dissent.
Dialogue with even moderate sections of civil society remains off the table as security services eliminate remaining sites that could potentially coordinate resistance, including detentions, searches and interrogations of delegates to the virtual platform Skhod [Gathering]. Most of the Skhod activists have been released, but the former Belarusian ambassador to Slovakia, Igor Leshchenya, remains behind bars.
The Ministry of Justice is forcing the legal community to renounce neutrality in politically motivated cases and demonstrate loyalty to the regime. Several more lawyers who defended political prisoners lost their licenses.
The authorities continue to attempt to deter the protest movement and punish participants in the August 2020 eventsvia high profile arrests, prison terms (bringing the current number of political prisoners to 631), and destroying the foreign aid infrastructure supporting people from Western funds.
Funds are being seized by the security forces from both private businesses and charitable crowdfunding platforms. The Investigative committee has refused to unblock the accounts of “Imena” crowdfunding for cosial projects, holding USD 545.000 for social projects and salaries.
However, there is still no compensation mechanism for groups and individuals who bear the costs of security forces repression against civil society. Social welfare continues to worsen as the population uses up foreign exchange savings, deposits with Belarusian banks decline, and the National Bank stabilises the annualised inflation rate at 9.8%.
Alienation between the state and the population therefore continues, and partial paralysis within the executive due to fear of reprisals increases the risk of decisions with socio-economic effects that may lead to a new wave of protests. The ruling class plans to promote its own pseudo-consultative structures and controlled media, attempting to co-opt erstwhile opponents who the security forces can threaten with criminal prosecution.