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Alyaksandr Lukashenka carring a gun. Photo: RIA

 

On August 23, the streets of Minsk were once again filled with 150 000 demonstrators, protesting against the elections who were neither free nor fair.

A video, probably released by Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s press service, shows him flying in a helicopter and comparing protesters with rats. He is also shown walking around with an automatic rifle, accompanied by his youngest son in military gear, and complimenting his security forces.

 

But aggressive stance does not end with the Belarusian people. On August 24, the Belarusian TV 1 released groundgreaking news: Mi-24 attack helicopters had successfully supressed a provocation from Lithuania. While the need to use attack helicopters might suggest otherwise, the provocation consisted of 8 balloons and a white-red-white flag released during the Freedom Way demonstration in Lithuania. To defend Belarus from such a provocation, the helicopters also wandered off to Lithuanian airspace, resulting in a diplomatic quarrel.

On August 27, Belarusian news agency BelTA covered a government meeting where the head of state said that “the country has to spend huge money to stabilize the situation at its western border, where some military units were dispatched.” However, according to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg there is no military build-up by NATO in the region. Stoltenberg also called unacceptable the attempt to shift focus from domestic issues to external ones to excuse violence.

On the same government meeting, Lukashenka also said “You see these statements saying that if Belarus falls apart, Hrodna Oblast will become part of Poland. They are already saying it openly, they are dreaming about it.” The Poles reacted with summoning the Belarus ambassador to protest at these unfounded accusations.

Dictatorship is the brand

When trying to understand why Belarus has made choices like these, an article by Meduza might provide some insight. First, it quotes an interview from last year with Lukashenka’s press secretary Natalya Eismont saying “dictatorship is now our brand”.

In her exclusive interview as close confidant of Lukashenka, she confesses:  “I don’t know if you’ll agree with me here, but today, in 2019, the word ‘dictatorship’ is gaining a certain positive connotation. We see what’s happening around us. We see the chaos and sometimes the disorder. And, you know maybe I’m about to say something paradoxical or surprising, but sometimes it seems to me that someday soon there may be a demand for dictatorship in the world. Because when we think about dictatorship today, we see discipline and an absolutely normal, quiet life, first and foremost.”

As for the dictatorship brand, it seems Lukashenka does not mind it. He has even joked about this during a meeting with U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo, saying Belarusian dictatorship “differs in that everyone rests on the weekends but the president works.” But then again, it looks like it does not work anymore.