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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

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