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

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease 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.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid