Violence in Belarus again: Tichanovskaya went underground

WWhile many people in several Belarusian cities were preparing to protest against the official result of the presidential elections on Monday evening, the regime of the permanent ruler Alexandr Lukashenka focused on his current greatest opponent, Svetlana Tichanovskaya. After all, it announced on Monday that it would not recognize the unbelievable official results – with a good 80 percent for Lukashenka and a good ten percent for Tichanovskaya – and declared itself the election winner.

The KGB then claimed to have prevented an attack on Tichanowskaja’s life. On state television, KGB boss Valerij Wakultschik cited information from Tichanovskaya’s staff on the one hand, and the Ministry of the Interior, on the other hand, which had intercepted a message stating that “a sacred sacrifice is needed”. In many of the successor states of the Soviet Union, this formulation is popular in order to blame opponents of the regime if there is a victim in their ranks.

For example, after the murder of Boris Nemtsov in spring 2015, media loyal to the Kremlin tried to portray this opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a victim of a plot by the opposition. The latter needed a “sacred sacrifice” in order to be able to denigrate Putin better (later arrests and judgments did not lead to the ranks of the opposition, but to the environment of the Chechen Putin follower Ramzan Kadyrov; the murder has not yet been investigated.).

Looking at Tichanovskaya, Wakultschik said the sender of the message about the “victim” needed was known and would soon be arrested. He added that 120 people were assigned to guard Tichanovskay’s staff. Lukashenka had previously said himself that his opponent’s staff had been placed under guard on Monday night.

Tichanovskaya lodged a complaint against the official election results with the Central Election Commission on Monday and then disappeared that evening saying that she had “made a decision”. Her whereabouts were initially unknown, her staff announced. Lukashenka’s opponent must expect arrest at any time. Her husband, in whose place she ran in the elections, has been in custody since the end of May, and according to the Tut.by news portal, state television has now linked the candidate to “mass unrest”, like the regime’s protests on Sunday evening and night for Monday calls. According to its own information, the investigative committee has opened a total of 21 proceedings for the relevant criminal offense and reported that more than 80 arrested people were suspected.

Despite all the deterrents, new protests were reported from several Belarusian cities on Monday evening. One protester was killed in clashes with police in the capital, Minsk. The authorities said that an explosive device had exploded in the man’s hand and was about to throw it at special police units. The man succumbed to his serious injuries. Previously, there had been an argument between demonstrators and the police at a barricade.

Pictures from Minsk, which made it out of the country despite the ongoing Internet throttling, showed new arrests and demonstrators honored by motorists in solidarity. Apparently in Minsk it was not only those in power that blocked underground stations and interrupted public transport. Conversely, drivers also prevented emergency services from being relocated within the capital.

Groups of demonstrators gathered in several districts of Minsk. Again and again, special forces picked out individuals and led them away. The security forces again used flash and noise grenades, tear gas and hard rubber bullets. One of them injured a journalist’s knee. According to observers, troops in soldiers’ uniform with assault rifles were also deployed in Minsk, presumably special forces of the military. The situation remained confusing until late in the evening.

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