Lukashenko threatens Ukraine with ‘complete destruction’
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Belarus’s leader, Alexander Lukashenko, is Vladimir Putin’s closest ally with the pair holding a key meeting this week. The Russian President headed to the Eastern European country for his first “working” visit in more than three years. The trip has sparked fears that Russia may now be planning a fresh attack on Ukraine. Due to the Belarusian government’s repressive policy, it is difficult to garner the political views of those in the country. However, an underground network group has made their allegiance clear, carrying out acts of sabotage.
Just this week, Mr Lukashenko labelled his Russian counterpart and himself “co-aggressors” and the “worst and most toxic people” amid weeks of speculation over Belarus’s role in the war in Ukraine. However, Putin denied that he was pushing Belarus to join the conflict.
From Putin’s proverbial pocket, Mr Lukashenko also hinted towards the fact that had it not been for his alliance with Russia, Belarus could have been in a similar situation to Ukraine now.
The 65-year-old’s longstanding “friendship” and allyship with Putin has led to officials, activists, hackers, and citizens attempting to carry out a revolution.
Inspired by the revolutionaries who destroyed the Nazi’s railway networks, the activists launched a “railway war”.
ABC News reported that some Belarusians — who believe a loss for Russia would cement their freedom — were putting together a “secret plan” in order to sabotage Putin’s operations in Ukraine.
The resistance leader Aliaksandr Azarau said in June: “Our activists destroyed relay boxes and central signalling. This action resulted in slowing down the traffic on the railroad and in the first week of our actions, Russian trains had stopped moving at all.”
Mr Lukashenko, whose 2020 re-election was contentious with it has not been recognised by the EU, is described by the anti-regime network, and many of those who oppose him, as the “last dictator of Europe”.
The Belarusian leader who has been in power for more than two decades claimed he had won 80 percent of the 2020 vote but sanctions were later placed on the country after the result was condemned as “massive electoral fraud” and a “human rights breach”.
The Belarusian people did not take the result quietly as hundreds of thousands of peaceful protestors took to the streets in the months that followed. In fact, when 250,000 people gathered in the capital of Minsk, it was the largest single demonstration in the country’s history.
Throughout his long “dictatorship” Lukashenko has quashed any opposition — his 2020 election rival Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is currently living in exile in Lithuania — and Belarus is one of the worst countries for media censorship.
It is also difficult to determine the political affiliations of the population through surveys as many do not want to give anti-Lukashenko answers due to the “fear factor”.
However, the Centre for East European and International Studies conducted a study of 2,000 Belarusians aged 16 to 64 and found that at least 700,000 people must have protested. Another poll conducted between November and December 2020 found that the opinion of Russia in Belarus was not clear-cut.
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While 43 percent consider the nation to be its greatest threat to Belarus’s territorial integrity, the overwhelming majority of 86 percent had a “very positive” perception of Russia. The perception of Russian people was even higher at 96 percent.
But, this was significantly less for the Russian President himself as although Putin enjoyed a majority, it was 60 percent. It is, however, important to point out that this study was conducted less than three months before Putin launched his war in Ukraine on February 24.
A study conducted by Chatham House of more than 800 people in April this year, found 32 percent of Belarusians asked supported Russia’s “military operation in Ukraine”. But 33 percent said they “definitely didn’t support it” and 28 percent were undecided.
Since the war began, some Belariusans — and their Russian counterparts — have been subjected unfairly to discrimination because of their respective leaders’ antics with students reportedly being rejected from universities.
But as Mr Lukashenko’s allyship with Putin remains unfettered, the plight of those who dissent appears to be far from over.
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