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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

ILO: Women Still Losing Out in Global Work Place

International Labor Organization says women are marginally better off now than they were 20 years ago 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.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

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