News / Europe

Belarus Dictator Struggles With Internet-led Protest

Belarusian policemen block a street during an action "Revolution via social network" in Minsk, Belarus, June 22, 2011.
Belarusian policemen block a street during an action "Revolution via social network" in Minsk, Belarus, June 22, 2011.
James Brooke

The biggest anti-government protest in Belarus in six months flowed out of cyberspace.

Belarus’ protest movement has no leader.  It has no address.  It relies on the Internet.  And it has driven authorities of this former Soviet republic to harsh measures.

On Wednesday night, police snatched 460 people off the streets of nation’s largest cities.  Their crime -- clapping hands while walking on sidewalks.

Most were released Thursday after paying fines, although about 20 of them face charges of “petty hooliganism.”

Police also released 16 journalists who had been forced into prison trucks in the sweeps of sidewalks.  Sweden complained that police assaulted their charge d’affaires, who was observing the protest in Minsk.

Thousands of young people turned out for the protest -- the third time social networking sites had called for opponents of the government to take a walk on Wednesday evening.  It was the biggest turnout since protests last December, after presidential elections widely denounced as fraudulent.

Anatol Lebedko, chairman of the United Citizenship party, called the protest 100-percent successful.

Traditionally, he said, the secret police, still called the KGB in Belarus, arrest protest organizers in advance.  Now, there are no leaders to arrest.  Anonymous protest calls go out on Facebook and other social networking sites.  

Victor Martiovich, editor of the opposition newspaper Belgazeta, agreed, saying that the government does not know what to do.  It is facing an amorphous civilian opposition, one with no hierarchy and no leadership.

He said the protesters have created a brand, adding “Now everyone knows where to go if you are against Lukashenko.”

Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus’ president for the last 17 years, threatened last Friday to turn off “that trash, the Internet,” as he put it.  Almost half of Belarusian adults are now online, a rate that increases in the cities, where 70 percent of the population now lives.

Already security services now block access to several opposition sites.  This week, they interrogated hundreds of Facebook users.

Searching for opponents, the president, a former collective farm manager, promised while on a farm visit last week that he would, in his words, "watch and observe -- and then whack them in such a way, that they won't even have time to run across the border.”

His immediate concern is the country's Independence Day July 3.

Lebedko, the opposition leader, said he would encourage people that day to go for family strolls, to enjoy the fresh air of a summer evening outdoors.

Swelling the ranks of the protest movement is this year's 50-percent devaluation of the Belarusian ruble.  While salaries are frozen, inflation is expected to hit 50 percent this year.

On Tuesday, Belarus received $800 million in aid from a Russia-led fund.  Thursday, Belarus authorities promised to send some of that money back to Russia to pay an overdue electricity bill to Russia.  The Russian power company had threatened to cut off power.

Stanislaw Bogdankevich, former president of the Belarusian National Bank, looks ahead and sees the economic situation getting worse.

With more and more bills coming due, lower living standards are expected to be the new norm for this Central European nation.  And that is expected to increase the numbers of illegal hand-clappers.

You May Like

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid