Big Brother Belarus meets its people with Stalinist home recipes-while Europe meets Tikhanovskaya with a warm handshake

The Covid pandemic is keeping the whole world in suspense, the joy of the redeeming vaccine is dampened by starting difficulties and new mutations. However, the pandemic is not only threatening the health of the world population, but also the Europeans Unions responsibility for human rights violations in repressive systems. This is also shown very clearly by the example of Belarus. It is as if the Iron Curtain that fell 30 years ago, the age of globalization and the Internet can still be “treated” with the familiar household remedies of authoritarian centralist regimes.

Manipulation of elections

Starting long before the presidential elections in August 2020 with the fact that the 3 most promising presidential candidates were eliminated. First, the critical blogger Sergey Tikhanovsky, arrested at the end of May, the bank director Viktor Babariko and his son followed in June, and at the end of July, Valery Tsepkalo fled the country with his two sons. At the last second, Tikhanovsky’s wife, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya was able to register for elections, probably only because a “simple” foreign language secretary, being that time housewife and mother, was not given any chances by the state power. But with the help of the campaign teams of the other two candidates, including Maria Kolesnikova from Team Babariko, hundreds of thousands of Belarusians followed her empathically. The fact that she should only have received 10 percent of the votes was clearly too much of a gamble by the state power. And the Belarusians rose up historically and showed the whole world clearly and courageously as a people that no longer want to be lied to and oppressed. We all have seen this in big pictures.

Elimination of leading figures

Then the brave Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who defied the many threats during the election campaign, suddenly declared with a pale face to the Belarusian people that she was leaving the country. With a loved one in jail and two young children, you don’t need a lot of fantasy to get the turnaround. While all the leading figures of the democracy movement sat behind bars or fled the country, the last remaining was Maria Kolesnikova, not a politician either, a professional musician and cultural worker who studied and worked in Germany for a long time. When state power wanted to film her “escape” for the Belarusian people, she suddenly tore up her passport at the Ukrainian border and thus consciously took the direct route to the Belarusian prison. Chapeaux!

Setting examples in the common population

And we saw how these peaceful mass protests from all strata of the Belarusian population were “processed” by the state power. Thousands were taken from the crowd, persecuted, driven, brutally beaten down, locked up, tortured, and kept in solitary confinement to this day. Deaths occurred in the heat of the state battles. In this way, also the politically inexperienced family man Gennadij Shutov died from a shot in the back of the head by a special police agent. When not even a preliminary investigation was started, his best friend, Alexander Kordyukov (both ISHR cases), after more than 4 months in custody, was suddenly charged with attempted manslaughter on this civil police agent. Countless young people who want democracy and freedom for their country are exposed to psychological terror in solitary confinement for months. Among them the ISHR case of the 25-year-old English teacher Marina Glasova, who was just tried (January 20th, 2020), in a court case with 10 people who were accused of standing in a group of people in a demonstration at a street crossing in Brest and thus “violated public order”. Marina and most of the other co-defendants had pleaded “guilty” in court. The families of the accused asked the ISHR not to take any action. The comparison with Stalinist purges is not too far-fetched, isn’t it?

Destruction of professional careers and isolation from abroad

In the last few months, hundreds of Belarusian students have simply been de-registered from their universities without giving any reason, and the higher education that had been “free” up until then was billed retrospectively so that a large number of Belarusian students now have a small mountain of debt instead of facing a great professional future. Financial support from abroad is not possible, as new legal regulations mean that accounts throughout Belarus are being strictly controlled. Many committed Belarusian NGOs are left with exile and work on the Internet, which is the only source of information that cannot be fully controlled by the state. The borders are closed by Covid, which in turn benefits state power.

Turn off the independent media

In the last six months, there have been apparently mysterious waves over Belarus that destroyed the technical function of large newspaper printing presses. While there is no independent TV station, some independent print media have remained in Belarus. This was the only place where ordinary citizens, especially older people who are remote from the Internet, or those imprisoned, could receive information that they could not get anywhere else. One of these last shining stars on the sky of media freedom was the Brestskaya Gazeta, which is highly valued and much quoted by the ISHR. It had a unique rubric that published letters from political prisoners. Svetlana Tichanovskaya’s husband wrote, after having been in solitary confinement for over half a year:

‘Since May 29th, I’ve been in a parallel world. You know how in the movie “Back to the Future”. Time branches out into parallel worlds. Only I am isolated from it in the prison cell and messages come through to me as short text messages based on what we can imagine …’

But then suddenly – after 18 years running – also its printing house without any explanation ‘wasn’t able’ to print anymore. And so not any printing-houses in whole Belarus, 5 times the size of the Netherlands, that were able to put the letters written here on paper. Instead of these letters, the likeness of Maria Kolesnikova humiliated with devil horns, roll out of the printing presses a million times in multi-color.

Breaking the spine –  Lukanshenkas Guantamo-dream-castle?

Those who still show their backbone seems to be broken with brutal violence. The independent police association of Belarus BYPOL, which was founded after the brutal crackdown on the citizens’ movement, published an audio recording, the voice of which they gave to the head of the special police operation and today’s Deputy Interior Minister of Belarus Mikalai Karpiankou, i.e. Lukashenka’s’ right hand. In the recording, Belarusian police officers are evidently trained in action against demonstrators. In addition to horrific violent statements, it is also reported that Lukashenko is planning a kind of Belarussian Guantanamo for demonstrators who do not give in. It says, that the Ministry of the Interior has developed its own database for this. Because, so in the audio, all these demonstrators, are superfluous people, terrorists, who have to be treated in such a way that they would not regain consciousness afterwards … nothing would be left with half of the brain … because if you would not face it with full force, Belarus was lost and would be divided between Russia, Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine. And that is why the police apparatus was now particularly challenged. The time had come when determined young people were required and would excel themselves. These young state saviors, so would have promised Lukashenka, could expect the highest awards.

Shameful testimony of European partnership politics

With all understanding for the priority of fighting the pandemic of one’s own country in Europe as well as the great interest in the current historical events behind the Great Ocean, a few insignificant sanctions against the Belarusian state power and a warm handshake (in a figurative sense, of course) for Svetlana Tikhanovskaya are a shameful testimony of European partnership politics!

Dr. phil. Carmen Krusch-Grün, 20.01.2021