Category Archives: Belarus

Football fans jailed for anti-Putin chant in Belarus

BBC News reports:

Fans chant at the Ukraine-Belarus Euro 2016 match in Borisov, Belarus, on 9 October 2014‘A court in the Belarusian capital Minsk has jailed eight Ukrainian football fans after they sang an insulting song about Russian President Vladimir Putin.

One man was sent to prison for 10 days for possessing fascist symbols. Seven others were jailed for five days for using obscene language.

They had joined in anti-Putin chants and songs at the Euro 2016 qualifier between Ukraine and Belarus. A number of Belarusian fans were also convicted and fined.’

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The Geopolitics of the Eurasian Economic Union

Eric Draitser writes for CounterPunch:

‘The deal signed last week by Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan to create a Eurasian Economic Union is yet another countermeasure against US and European attempts to isolate Russia. By moving towards closer economic cooperation, Russia hopes to build, piecemeal if necessary, a common Eurasian economic space that will ultimately rival the US and Europe in terms of economic influence.

However, the ultimate goal of this sort of cooperation goes far beyond just economic power. Rather, Russia is the key facilitator of a series of multilateral arrangements created in the last fifteen years that Putin (and much of the world) hopes will ultimately move the world towards a multipolar global order. While this is undoubtedly on the agenda for Russia and its ally Belarus, Kazakhstan is a complicated partner as it is deeply involved with the West in terms of business, investment, education, and a number of other critical areas.

The Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) presents a host of possibilities for economic cooperation and development. From energy reserves to the all important pipeline infrastructure, the new arrangement will, over time, have a greater and greater impact on energy exports and consumption both in Europe and Asia as China looks to further secure its energy future. Moreover, the EEU will impact vital trade routes and commercial and private transportation options, in addition to promoting political, military, and security cooperation among the members, and in the region generally. Essentially then, the EEU should be understood as yet another blow to US hegemony in Asia and the former Soviet space.’

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Undercover in Europe’s last dictatorship

Editor’s Note: This Channel 4 news segment is anything but objective and impartial, and while I’m certainly no fan of Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko, the situation from what I’ve learned over the years is more complicated than how it is often presented by the Western media. There seems to have been an increasing amount of coverage on Belarus recently, this is mainly because of the situation in Ukraine and the attempts to further dirty Russia’s already unclean image that have come with it. When I’ve come across Belarusian citizens in the past I’ve found mixed views about the country. Most are certainly opposed to Lukashenko, while others have pointed fingers at Western attempts to destabilise the country through their support of opposition groups. Below are a few links that attempt to show both sides of the Belarus situation. 

U.S. Pledges Support for ‘All Post-Soviet States’

David Brunnstrom reports for Reuters:

Eurasia 2A senior U.S. official will travel to two countries in Central Asia next week to emphasize U.S. support for the independence of post-Soviet states after Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal, Washington’s point person for South and Central Asia, will visit Kazakhstan from March 31 to April 2 and Kyrgyzstan from April 2-4.

“In both countries Assistant Secretary Biswal will re-affirm the U.S. commitment to continued engagement and partnership with the countries of the region for stability and prosperity,” the State Department said in a statement. A State Department official added that would “affirm our support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of both countries and for all post-Soviet states.”

The U.S. visit will come two weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine, another former Soviet state. Putin is now expected to turn to the autocrats of Central Asia, particularly Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbayev, to further his aim of erecting a Eurasian Union of former Soviet states.

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Is Ukraine’s Neighbour Belarus The Next In Line For A Crisis?

Kurt Nimmo writes for Infowars:

Aleksandr Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin in 2002. Photo: WikimediaBelarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko Sunday made a point of stating that the Maidan revolution that has transformed Ukraine will not be a factor in Belarus. “There will be no Maidan in Belarus,” Lukashenko said. He admitted that likewise tensions exist in his country and said it is the “sacred mission” of the Belarusian state to “preserve peace and stability in our land.” Lukashenko vowed his government will “prevent even smallest indications of instability in our country. The neighboring Ukraine, which has become an arena for a clash between powerful internal and external forces, should be a lesson for us.”

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice characterized Belarus as the “last remaining true dictatorship in the heart of Europe.” Lukashenko has imposed authoritarian control over the landlocked eastern European country since 1994. Belarus declared independence in 1990 following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Despite widespread criticism in Europe, Lukashenko has maintained Soviet-era polices, including state ownership of the economy.

During anti-government demonstrations in 2011, Lukashenko vowed there would be “no color revolution” in Belarus like the ones in Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. He blamed outside influences and the internet-based Revolution Through Social Networks for the protests. Lukashenko said the government would respond violently to peaceful demonstrations challenging the state. Hundreds of activists from the online organization were arrested in Minsk. Journalists were also arrested and detained.

Following independence “Belarus’s history presents a long litany of laws restricting the country’s independent media, legislation hindering the work of NGOs, the expulsion of foreign diplomats and NGO workers for conspiring against the regime, and arrests at demonstrations protesting Lukashenka’s policies,” write Abel Polese and Donnacha Ó Beacháin (The Color Revolutions in the Former Soviet Republics). On Independence Day 2011, the police used tear gas and batons against hundreds of Belarusians protesting against Lukashenko’s authoritarian rule.

Freedom House, the National Endowment for Democracy, and George Soros’ Open Society funded Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) attempted to gain the release Ales Bialiatski, a purported human rights activist who was sentenced to four years in prison. Bialiatski was the vice president of FIDH, “making him anything but a ‘human rights defender’ and instead a coordinator of US-backed destabilization efforts that have been ongoing in the Eastern European nation for years,” writes researcher Tony Cartalucci.

“Several years back,” writes Andrrei Khrapavistski (The struggle for survival of independent newspapers and the role of new media during the 2006 Belarus presidential elections), “the International Research & Exchanges Board, the Soros Foundation, and the Independent Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Studies were forced by the Belarusian government to close their offices in Belarus, but some of them continue to function either from abroad or covertly within the country, providing some insight into the Belarusian conundrum.”

China’s New Favorite Dictator: Belarus’s Aleksandr Lukashenko

Kapil Komireddi writes for The Daily Beast:

Twenty years ago, Belarus bustled with hope and anxiety. Flat, forested, and landlocked between Poland, Ukraine and Russia, it had never truly known national autonomy. The Soviet Union, which had defined the territory of modern Belarus, was dead. What looked like the end of history to jubilant spectators across the West was for many Belarusians the beginning of an inscrutable future. The election of 1994 was the first free vote in the history of the Belarusian people, and they turned to a man called Aleksandr Lukashenko to carry them forward.

Two decades on, there has not been another unrestricted election in Belarus. Minsk, the capital, is a picture of unbearable desolation. At dusk, workers emerge from gargantuan Soviet-built blocks and disappear into the darkness. There is a chilling silence on buses and in the subway. The fear of being watched chokes conversation. The only public assemblies that aren’t dispersed with force are the long queues outside the exchanges. At the central train station, young people who may be students furtively introduce themselves as currency dealers, offering up to 10,000 roubles for one American dollar. We want to get out of here, they say. But very few do. Why? “Because Belarus is a prison.”

For 20 years, Lukashenko has ruled Belarus in the fashion of his hero Joseph Stalin. Public assembly is banned, the press is censored, the Internet is monitored, telephones are tapped, and people’s livelihoods—and lives—depend on avoiding politics. Far from rejecting it, Lukashenko relishes the title, bestowed on him by Condoleezza Rice, of Europe’s last dictator. “I am the last and only dictator in Europe,” he said in 2012. He has already appointed his nine-year-old son, Kolya, as his successor.

Brussels and Washington may no longer be able to contain Lukashenko as he builds a Stalinist dynasty in the heart of Europe. Originally, it was the idea of a “Russian sphere of influence” that deterred the West from applying significant pressure on Lukashenko. This was always an exaggeration. Belarus has relied on Russia to keep its debt-financed economy afloat—yet for all its apparent power, Moscow has not been able to persuade Lukashenko to recognise the Putin-supervised sovereignty of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. His erratic behaviour in handling Russian oil pipelines prompted Moscow to seek alternative routes of supply. Now, conscious of his diminishing utility for Putin and eager to brandish his independence from Russia, Lukashenko has found a new patron: China.

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Russian-Backed Free-Trade Zone May Expand Its Borders

From The New York Times:

Citizens of three former Soviet countries — Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan — can work legally on the territory of one another’s countries.

And in a glass-and-steel skyscraper in Moscow, hundreds of officials at a new international organization have quietly taken over trade policy for these three governments.

After years of fits and starts, a Russian-backed idea to form a free-trade zone on the territory of much of the former Soviet Union is closer to fruition today than ever before.

Adding to the momentum was the decision last week by the Ukrainian government to hold talks on aligning with this group, called the Customs Union, rather than with the European Union. Two other former Soviet states, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia, have also committed to joining this group, a sort of Nafta of Eurasia.

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EU passes British aid to Belarus dictator

FThe EU is sending British aid to Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenkorom The Telegraph:

Funds intended to help the world’s neediest have been spent on providing training and equipment to the police force and border guards of Belarus, an autocracy run along Soviet lines.

The aid, supplied by the European Union’s EuropeAid programme, to which Britain’s Department for International Development (DfID) is a major donor, came despite violent action against the pro-democracy opposition.

The Foreign Office has expressed grave concern at the imprisonment and abuse of dissidents and also at the use of the death penalty, while an EU arms embargo has been put in place. However, the EU increased aid payments to Belarus to more than £32 million last year, including millions of pounds on projects to reinforce the country’s western borders.

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