News / Europe

Belarus President Vows to Destroy Opposition

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko (File)
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko (File)
James Brooke

In the wake of a terrorist bombing and a massive devaluation, the president of Belarus addressed his nation Thursday.

Belarus’s President Alexander Lukashenko gave a three hour state of the nation speech Thursday. But he did not talk about this week’s 50 percent devaluation of the national currency or reveal motives behind the massive metro bomb of 10 days ago.

While Belarusians waited for hours in lines outside exchange shops, their leader blamed Western countries for trying "to strangle the country with a slipknot”"

European Council on Foreign Relations Belarus expert Jana Kobzova said the tactic of blaming others is a key to the 17 year rule of a man often called "the last dictator in Europe." "The key to his surviving is making sure that others are blamed - and that is exactly what the speech was about: blaming the West," Kobzova said.

But economists blame the devaluation on President Lukashenko. They say he went on a liberal spending spree to buy support prior to the December 19 presidential election. A key plank in his election platform was: no devaluation.

The Belarus leader also did not clarify motives behind last week’s bombing of the Minsk metro. Timed to explode at a rush hour, the shrapnel filled bomb killed 13 and wounded 203. Police say they have arrested five people in their 20s, largely from Vitebsk, a city close to the Russian border.

Speaking immediately after the bombing, President Lukashenko ordered police: "Detain and question, don’t pay any attention to any kind of democracy and the wails and groans of the pathetic Westerners."

Speaking Thursday, he said only:  "This act of terror has thus far not led us to any politician, criminal or bandit."

In this information vacuum, conspiracy theories fill the Belarus Internet, a free speech corner in a highly policed society. In a poll by Tut.bu, the country’s leading news website, about 60 percent of respondents blamed the bombing on the government.

Referring to conspiracy theories, President Lukashenko blasted his political opposition and the nation’s tiny opposition press for "dancing on the bones" of the metro victims.

The nation’s lone opposition newspaper, Nasha Niva, has received two government warnings for its subway bombing coverage. The next warning could lead to its closure.

President Lukashenko said the bombers learned their techniques from the Internet. He said they were emboldened by the atmosphere prior to the Dec. 19 presidential election, a time when "there was so much democracy, it was just sickening."

Lukashenko told Belarusians that his government is undergoing a temporary break with Europe and that relations will improve.

In reality, the US and the European Union are considering adding 19 names to a list of Belarusian officials banned from traveling to the west. President Lukashenko tops a list of 158 government officials, drawn up after western observers reported widespread fraud in the presidential election.

In his speech, the Belarus leader frequently blurred that distinction between himself and the nation. "He says ‘the West hates Belarus’, meaning that the West hates Lukashenko. That is what he is always complaining about," Kobzova said.

After the election, police arrested seven of the nine opposition candidates. On Wednesday, Andrei Sannikov, the candidate who came in second, is to go on trial on charges that could bring 15 years in jail.  Sannikov, a former Belarusian diplomat has not been seen in public since his arrest four months ago.

With 15 other opposition figures scheduled to go on trial next week, the Belarus leader vowed Thursday to smash any "fifth column" - those secretly trying to undermine his government.

You May Like

Australia Knights Prince Philip, Sparking National Outrage

Abbott's surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the country's honors system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment More

SAG Award Boosts 'Birdman' Oscar Hopes

Individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up: SAG awards went to artists who won Golden Globes: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons More

Katy Perry Lights Way for Super Bowl's Girl Power Moment

Pop star's selection to headline US football championship's halftime show extends NFL's trend of selecting artists who appeal to younger viewers 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.
Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sidesi
X
June Soh
January 23, 2015 10:03 PM
The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, even music are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. Faith Lapidus narrates a report from VOA’s June Soh.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, even music are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. Faith Lapidus narrates a report from VOA’s June Soh.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid