Summary of the situation in Belarus
Belarus is a ex-USSR country that gained independence in 1991. 
Alexander Lukashenko was elected President of the Republic of Belarus in 1994. He bases his policies on nostalgia for the communist regime. Unlike other countries that were once part of the USSR, Russian influence is still very present in Belarus. Russian is one of the official languages.
The flag that was introduced in 1991 when Belarus became independent (white and red) was replaced again in 1995 by the old flag of the Soviet Socialist Republic at the initiative of the Lukashenko government, which wanted to get closer to Russia.
Belarus has kept a welfare state system (free health and education…), which has allowed the country to have less inequalities than its Russian neighbor.
Lukashenko is seen as the last dictator in Europe: Belarus is the only European country to practice the death penalty and opponents of the regime have disappeared several times (presumably murdered by the government).
Lukashenko has been re-elected 5 times.  His last re-election in 2020 with 80% of the votes gave rise to an uprising.
The “anti-cockroach” movement began on May 24, 2020, after a blogger was arrested by the authorities for calling President Lukashenko a “cockroach”. On June 19, the president ordered the arrest of his main rival, Viktar Babaryka. Belarusians took to the streets to protest against these arrests, which were considered arbitrary. They demanded the release of political prisoners and free and fair elections. The demonstrations are massive and intensify with the re-election of Lukashenko with 80% of the votes on August 9, 2020. The result is considered rigged by opponents. The denial of the pandemic by the government and the mismanagement of the health crisis finally made the vase overflow and thousands of people took to the streets the first week of August. The demonstrators set up barricades in entire areas of Minsk.
The government cracked down on this uprising : a protester was killed by police on the second night after the elections and the video of his death was posted on social networks.  Journalists were also targeted, their equipment destroyed during the demonstrations. Arrested protesters are tortured.
The rallies bring together all generations and Belarusian youth is particularly active in the movement. Mothers whose children have been arrested are also very visible. On August 15, workers demonstrated against the government and researchers, intellectuals, journalists and businessmen joined the protest. On August 16, a large demonstration took place in Minsk, gathering 100,000 people. The public channel Belarus 1 went on strike on August 18 and stopped broadcasting. The striking journalists were fired and replaced by Russian journalists. The demonstrators demanded the resignation of the president and his government.
The movement lost momentum in the second week of August due to repression and conflicts within the militant milieu. When the school year began on September 1, students went on strike and demonstrations resumed.
At the end of November, the demonstrators changed their strategy and gathered in small groups all over the city in order to destabilize the police. They applied this strategy on November 29 during a march called the “Neighbors’ March”. On the days of the rally (every Sunday), the government blocked Internet access in a large part of the country, as well as access to the main squares, metro stations in the center of Minsk and government buildings. On December 10, Belarus banned all overland travel out of the country, with the opposition denouncing this as a way to “hide” the crimes committed.
The amendments to the Constitution were adopted by 86% (with 78% of voters). The government finally apologized for the excesses of the police and opened a commission of inquiry, which proved to be ineffective because of its opacity.
Many countries do not recognize the re-election of Alexander Lukashenko. Some countries are taking sanctions against Belarus and its leaders (Switzerland, United States, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia…). Others provide support without taking concrete sanctions : this is the case of the French government.
The European Union does not recognize the re-election of Lukashenko and tries to push the Belarusian authorities to accept a plan that would put an end to the repression, the release of the arrested demonstrators, the establishment of a National Council composed of members of the government and the opposition, and new elections. Lukashenko refused this plan and the EU put in place sanctions against Belarus. The EU also condemned the arrests and intimidation of journalists.  The President of the European Commission announced that she had mobilized 2 million euros to support the victims of repression and 1 million euros to finance the independent Belarusian media. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy declared that “the elections were neither free nor fair” and that “the state authorities used disproportionate and unacceptable violence”.
In Russia, opinions are divided: Senator Melnichenko, who is close to the Russian president, recognizes Lukashenko’s re-election, while the leader of the extreme right-wing party opposed to Putin has welcomed the “agony of the Lukashenko regime”. Russian oligarchs are involved in financing the opposition in order to initiate future privatizations in Belarusian industry.
100,000 demonstrators in Minsk on August 16, 2020
1000 police officers resign out of 4000 in the country
Tortures : 450 cases
Political prisoners : 663
Dead : at least 4
Injured : at least 4000
Arrests : at least 36 000

Last update : 05/09/2022