The likelihood of political repression has grown in Belarus
By Andrei Parotnikau
Alexander Lukashenka has unambiguously and openly directed law enforcers to prepare to resume repressions amid the upcoming presidential elections.
On March 13th, 2020, Lukashenka held a briefing with Interior Minister Karaeu. As usual, the Belarusian president delivered an extensive speech on matters he considered relevant for himself. In this case, about the coronavirus pandemics and some unnamed persons, mostly Belarusian nationals, allegedly engaged in subversive activity against the state and social stability. According to him, the police would be the main force to ensure domestic stability.
Earlier, on February 25th, 2020, when appointing new leadership in the KGB and the Interior Ministry, Lukashenka instructed them to prevent destructive influences on Belarus from the outside (for the KGB) and to step up the fight against extremism (for the Interior Ministry). That said, as part of anti-extremism measures, the Interior Ministry is putting pressure on youth subcultures (anarchists and football fans), who, albeit being politicized, do not participate in the political process due to their anti-system sentiment.
It is noteworthy that on December 19th, 2019, Lukashenka signed a new cross-departmental National Defense Plan. A lion’s share of the plan is focusing on preventing domestic destabilization as part of the threat to national security because it is often preceded to external armed pressure. When speaking about domestic stability threats, the Army’s Chief of the General Staff, Aliaksandr Volfavich, has equated the political opposition, sabotage and intelligence groups.
Lukashenka has said the upcoming presidential campaign should be held calmly and simultaneously instructed law enforcers and security officials to prepare for ‘neutralizing’ those discontent with the situation in the country and the results of the election campaign. Given that this thesis has been voiced twice in less than three weeks, the likelihood of harsh repressions is high and not only during the voting or immediately after, but also pre-emptively.