Amid Ukrainian crisis, Belarusians become less demanding vis-a-vis authorities
Despite the fact that the average level of wages has fallen in the country, Belarusians feel more satisfied with their living standards and have increased their support of Lukashenko, says a September poll carried out by IISEPS. The Belarusian socio-economic model is stagnating, however, and the Ukrainian factor has a decisive influence on Belarusians’ preferences. They support having a strong leader and a strong state and believe Belarus should have a special development path, one that is not associated with integration with the EU or Russia. The number of those ready to defend their country with arms in the event of military aggression from Russia has increased dramatically - from 14.2% in June to 25.9% in September. 26% of Belarusians are ready to stand armed against aggression from the NATO. Amid the conflict in Ukraine, in the short-term, lower living standards would not influence the government’s approval ratings and President Lukashenko will be portrayed as the sole guarantor of political stability in the country.
Following crackdown and arrests of participants in the spring protests, the authorities resumed arrests as punishment for participating in street protests in addition to fines, which for some time were the only punishment for political activity. On September 22nd, 2017, the riot police detained the Belarusian National Congress leader Nikolai Statkevich, the opposition politician was placed in detention centre on Akrestin street. On the same day, after serving seven days of arrest, another BNC leader, Vladimir Neklyaev, was released. He was sentenced for organising a street protest on September 8th against the West-2017 exercises. Other participants in the protest have been fined too. The authorities are likely to continue to use fines and arrests against political activists to punish for their protest activity.