Belarus. On repeated occasions at the beginning of the year, opposition activists were arrested, and a regime critic was sentenced in May to several years in prison. Independent journalists and writers were pressured, as were teachers who were members of opposition parties.
In the local elections in April, only 360 opposition candidates were registered, even though the local parishes have more than 21,000 eligible seats. There were reports of harassment of independent candidates and of cheating in both voting and voting.
After bloody riots and fighting in Kyrgyzstan, the deposed President Kurmanbek Bakijev fled to Belarus, where he was given the protection of the dictator Lukashenka, which caused dissatisfaction in Moscow.
In the autumn, the famous opposition journalist Aleh Byabenin was found hanging in his summer cottage. Police claimed he committed suicide, but friends and colleagues demanded an independent investigation. The regime agreed that the OSCE sent Swedish and Norwegian forensic experts to make a technical evaluation of the evidence. They supported the conclusion of suicide, which upset Byabenin’s colleagues. These stated that, as editor of the independent website Chartyja 97, he had been subjected to death threats.
According to COUNTRYAAH, Belarus has a population of 9.475 million (2019). Belarus’s relationship with the Russian Federation deteriorated during the year. In May, Russian Gazprom declared Belarus owed over $ 200 million for gas delivered. In June, Gazprom cut gas exports sharply, and then Belarus flowed to the rest of Europe. The quarrel came at the same time as President Lukashenka decided not to enter the planned customs union with the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan, which teased Moscow. But the dispute over gas was settled, debts were said to be out of the world and Russian exports resumed.
When fire bombs were thrown at the Russian embassy in Minsk, the Russian Federation demanded an investigation, with terms that angered Lukashenka so that he called the leaders of Moscow idiots. The outcome also came after Russian TV showed documentary films, in which Lukashenka was portrayed as killer, mafia godfather and dictator. A Russian anarchist group then took on the blame for the fire bombs against the Russian embassy.
It was speculated that the Kremlin took its hand from Lukashenka and wanted to support someone else in the December presidential election. The drama before the election was turned up when a mysterious person on an Internet video claimed that Russian Federation Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered Lukashenka to be murdered, perhaps through terrorist attacks against an election meeting. When the Russian Federation Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Minsk in the fall, he did not meet Lukashenka.
All the more heartbreaking was the October meeting between Lukashenka and visiting President Dalia Grybauskaite from neighboring Lithuania. Grybauskaite came with the blessing of Brussels in an attempt to forge stronger ties between the EU and Belarus, at a time when Lukashenka was on edge with Moscow. Grybauskaite’s EU greeting was that the December presidential election must be fair and free. She called for all opposition candidates to register and for election observers to be allowed. Lukashenka agreed to both demands, which the opposition candidates welcomed when Grybauskaite met them. She in turn urged them to agree on a joint candidate. But instead, nine challengers signed up to Lukashenka. The split of the opposition was a decisive reason why the dictator was the favorite to be elected for the fourth time.
After the Grybauskaite, Poland’s and Germany’s foreign ministers came to Minsk and offered Lukashenka three billion euros if he made a choice that the EU could accept as democratic. In the midst of his worst quarrel with Moscow, he seemed to welcome the outstretched hand of the EU. Assessors believed that Lukashenka played on the terms of the EU, as he was confident of winning the election anyway.
But the election was a tough blow to the democratic opposition. On election night, thousands of people protested in Minsk, since polling polls talked about Lukasjenka’s grand victory. After a few hooligans’ attacks on a government building, the riot police went on a violent attack on the peaceful protesters and many fought bloody, including one of the opposition’s presidential candidates, Vladimir Nekliyev. More than 600 people were arrested, including several opposition candidates who were later charged with organizing mass riots, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. According to the opposition, the violence was provoked by regime supporters.
According to the Election Commission, Lukashenka won the presidential election with 79.7 percent of the vote, with the opposition’s Andrej Sannikov in second place with only 2.6 percent. The OSCE election observers were not allowed to attend the voting count, the opposition spoke of widespread electoral fraud, Sweden’s Foreign Minister labeled the election a charade, and within the EU, sanctions were being considered.
Lukashenka reshaped the government after the election and then appointed Michail Mjasnikovich as new prime minister after Syarhey Sidorski.