BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS

BELARUS SPRING? An election fraud and the street is on fire

August 11, 2020 Dana Lewis Season 1 Episode 22
BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS
BELARUS SPRING? An election fraud and the street is on fire
Chapters
BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS
BELARUS SPRING? An election fraud and the street is on fire
Aug 11, 2020 Season 1 Episode 22
Dana Lewis

Belarus, a former Soviet Country of 10 million has had a pretend democracy since the fall of The Soviet Union.  Since 1994 Aleksander Lukashenko has been President.  He's stifled free and fair elections and jailed opponents.  Until now. 

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a housewife, and mother of two, whose husband ran for President and was jailed, decided to standup and call for real democracy.   She appears to have won the elections, say but was denied victory by Lukashenko who is using the police to arrest and suppress a Belarus Spring. 

On Back Story host and creator Dana Lewis talks to Belarusian journalist and activist Franack Viacorka and Belarus expert Olga Dryndova from the European Center for Eastern European Studies.

What will happen now in Belarus? And is Russia fearing the same call for freedom?

Show Notes Transcript

Belarus, a former Soviet Country of 10 million has had a pretend democracy since the fall of The Soviet Union.  Since 1994 Aleksander Lukashenko has been President.  He's stifled free and fair elections and jailed opponents.  Until now. 

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a housewife, and mother of two, whose husband ran for President and was jailed, decided to standup and call for real democracy.   She appears to have won the elections, say but was denied victory by Lukashenko who is using the police to arrest and suppress a Belarus Spring. 

On Back Story host and creator Dana Lewis talks to Belarusian journalist and activist Franack Viacorka and Belarus expert Olga Dryndova from the European Center for Eastern European Studies.

What will happen now in Belarus? And is Russia fearing the same call for freedom?

Speaker 1:

This time, it looks like the people know it and they're standing. It is different tummy , huh ?

Speaker 2:

For them it's like the, you know, the , the artifact from the past, you know, someone who is like from the school books, you know, they don't affiliate themselves with him and they don't want to live in the country, managed by here.

dana lewis :

Hi everyone. And welcome to another edition of backstory. I'm Dana Lewis. We have just finished putting up our report on Europe's bad boys in the last edition. I'll Poland and Hungary have ruled back press freedoms and our autocracies playing democracy, but undemocratic and now Bella roots ,

Speaker 2:

[inaudible]

dana lewis :

Shocking scenes overnight as the election in Belarus shows the president LucaShenko perhaps on his last legs, illegitimate election and people who took to the streets brutally put down by the police. But this time the voters know they've been had, and Belarus may never be the same. Again, people are standing up to authority. Joining me now is franack viacorka who is a journalist. It was born in Belarus and, u h, he's a movie maker. And, u h, he was even expelled from journalism school in Belarus. Why is that? If I can start with that,

franack viacorka:

The problem is that if you're active, if your opinion is different, from the opinion of authorities, you're always under pressure on the risk. Um, I, I started my, my activism let's say when I was 13 years old. And that was the time when there was first time detained. It was 2001 presidential elections. And I, and my, my, my cousin, we took the , um, the , the spray and the, we wrote on the wall on the building, the fence we derived elect go to elections. That was the first mobilization campaign, asking people to go to elections and vote against Lucretia . And now 19 years after we still there, we still have Luca Shan and we still call people to vote and to bring changes to the country , uh , all my life , uh, just , uh , passed on the flag of dictatorship and the struggle against dictatorship. I was studying on the ground school , uh, the underground school in different underground apartments , um, because the school where I was studying, it was closed by the government as the nest of a position later, I was studying in the faculty of journalism, but after several arrests detentions for my publications and for my activities, and just without any reasons, they, they expelled me. And later they took me to the army for a year and a half in Chernobyl zone where I was fighting NATO soldiers. We were told that there was going to invade us. And basically this is how it was , um, well , this , this is how I became who I am . I became, you know, that's the constant fight with a regime, with a system I was trying to , to , uh, to spread the war, you know, to, to promote , uh , democracy and freedom, you know, to inspire other guys, other peers, you know, to be active. And this is why I'm so deeply involved in , uh , moral loops psychologically , uh,

Speaker 1:

What's happening right now, because it's pretty incredible. When you take a look at some of the video, which is emerging from people who were standing up to Lucas, Kinko's troops, not only in Minsk , but these demonstrations have spread right across the country. People saying that this election , uh, you know, just isn't distorted. I mean, it's an outright theft of democracy. It's a sham.

Speaker 2:

Uh, yes. And , uh , basically it's , uh , they, they're not even pretend they are counting the votes . They even don't pretend to the, they , they do care about public opinion. Uh, the process , uh , that this sculpt elections in Belarus doesn't have anything in common with elections in UK, EU United States of America. Uh, they even don't count the ballot. So they basically put numbers in the final protocols, numbers that are given from the central electoral commission.

dana lewis :

Okay. He's a cheat, he's a cheat. And a Luca Shanko has suppressed his opposition for years and, you know, silence them, arrested them. Um, but I mean, this time, this time it looks like the people know it and they're standing. It is different. Tell me how

Speaker 2:

It's very unique situation. We never, we never so such mobilization as we see right now, then your generation of people just raise the people of a generation of YouTube, Instagram, and telegram messaging app. They don't care about Luca . Shanker's ideal Soviet past communism. You know, all this nostalgia about 80th , uh , for them, it's like the, you know, the, the artifact from the past, you know, someone who is like from the school books, you know, they don't affiliate themselves with him and they don't want to live in the country, managed by him. They traveled on the road . You know, they, they are very liberal, innovative, creative. They, they do a lot of cool stuff and the authorities just limit them from doing cool stuff. And this is why yesterday, they , they just decided to speak out. This is the moment when, when they spoke out against the past

Speaker 1:

And Lucas Shenko responded by sending his troops to the street. I mean, some of the scenes are quite violent. Um , in Minsk, for instance, in the Capitol , does that disturb you? What seen

Speaker 2:

It's? Uh , it's very disturbing. It's horrible. Uh, the factor we have emergency state of emergency yesterday in ballers , uh , all the entrances to means can other bigger cities were blocked by police cars and by regular army, the troops were put in the , uh , city center in Minsk, in the whole mill in breasts . And the police were given order to , uh, to brutally disperse protestors . They used water cannons , uh, pepper, pepper, sprays , um, uh, you know , they're , they also use them , uh, the , the grenades, the stun grenades grenades, and we have many people injured. We have one person that , uh, many people in very critical state. So I think we will know more main sophomore victim soon .

Speaker 1:

Tell me about the opposition candidate. I mean, she is essentially a reluctant recruit. I mean, she, she is not a longtime political activist. Her husband was arrested. Can you just give me her background and why she is been able to kind of galvanize people right now when people are following her?

Speaker 2:

That's amazing story. Two months ago, she was not politically involved at all. She's new fights , uh , who was never involved, interested in social life, but after her YouTube channel about the life of regular Belarussians and province, she began learning what's happening in her country. She builds to this generation raised race there , Luca Shankar , who were never exposed to alternative , uh, opinion were never exposed to opposition media, to foreign press . And she discovered Baylor's reality through the YouTube channel of her husband. Her husband told her I'm going to run for president. He did it, and he was jailed. Now he's in prison. And when he was, when he was jail , she said, okay, if he's in jail, I will run on his behalf. And she did that. She registered her initiative group. She collected 100,000 signatures. And then when all other candidates were withdrawn by Luca Shanka, she all others unifying throughout her. She's just like ended it by accident and she's pure technical candidates. And then, and this is why she's so powerful. She says, I don't want politics. I'm not politician. I just want new elections. And the , and this makes your extremely , uh , popular.

Speaker 1:

So what happens now? I mean, first of all, a lot of the people that governized around her , uh, have had the fleet , the country be fearing arrest. I mean, some of them have left , uh , and are talking from other parts of the world right now. She is still there. She was in hiding. Uh , then she came out for a brief period just on the Eve of the elections. I assume she's back in or will soon be under arrest.

Speaker 2:

Yeah , she is immense. Cause that's the most important and she is not arrested yet. This is also important. The most of the activists of her team and other teams are either in arrest in custody or abroads or hiding a location can made the huge sort of progressive campaign before elections, more than 15 hundreds . People got detained for less two months. And for now almost no one who can leave the crowd. I would say, who can speak out publicly is, is free only several dozen journalists, only two [inaudible] of your team. And that's it no more.

Speaker 1:

What do you think is going to happen now? I mean, people, it seems to me that people will not accept this election. They know this time, if they didn't know before, they certainly know this time , uh, that that he's bent the election process. So severely that it's illegitimate. Is anybody going to accept this vote? And what do you think the coming weeks and months will bring

Speaker 2:

People. Uh, people will not accept the results and people , uh , in Bellaruse they learned to self-organize. And it seems that this is the moment , uh, when people can agree their own communication channels and they can decide what to do by them. Or even if the leaders will not call people to protest, people will still find a way to , to, to fight and to resist the system because they go out to not for Chicanos care , they go out for changes and for , for their own ideas for European integration, for democratisation for independence of billers, and to at least make this protest so powerful, so effective. And this makes governments so inefficient in terms of cracking down because it's this person decentralized.

Speaker 1:

So how, I guess, who is the question who is a friend of Lucas shingles right now? He had Putin at one point, it doesn't look like Russia supporting him . Now he had some friends in the EU as , as he was starting to turn more to the West. Now the EU is not going to support them at this moment because of what he's done and the use of force on the streets. And he seems like he's a very lone solitary, brutal figure, but one that is increasingly isolated.

Speaker 2:

He's getting an isolated, he's losing , uh , the remains of support on the law enforcement army. And the police are, are groups of people that still , um, have loyalty to him. And when these groups will begin switching flippant and taking the side of protesters , like it happened in some towns in Western Belarus yesterday.

Speaker 1:

So far that elite of the regime, the vertical, the power vertical, the protests will continue. This vertical will not be so, so, so strong anymore for now . Do you think this is the beginning of the end, or will he survive this one? This is the beginning of that. This is the beginning of [inaudible] , which will be democratic free and which will decide on its own , uh , what to do, where to move and how to develop it . It's phrenic via Charkha . It's a real pleasure to talk to you. And I hope next time I talk to you , uh , it , it will be from a mainstream democratic , uh , platform where you're allowed free speech , uh , in Belarus. And it is the end to the strangulation of, of democracy in your country. Thank you so much. Thank you so much. And then this update. Tatyana Tikhanovskaya who has claimed victory over authoritarian, president Ale xander Luc aShenko has now fled Belarus she's arrived in the neighboring country of Lithuania. She 's sa fe and will no doubt be speaking out. All right. Let's talk to Olg a dr i n. D ryndova she is a t the research center for Eastern European studies at the university of Bremen, and she is a country expert on Bell aruse. So let' s, le t's test your expertise, Olga, caus e I k now you, uh , it' s the ver y difficult time in Bela rus fol lowing the election, you've been able to reach out and talk to people. What are you hearing? Because some of the images are quite disturbing

olga dryndova :

Patient gate . It is quite a shocking experience for me and I was born in Belarus and lived there till I went to Germany about 10 years ago. Uh , I mean they, we had, and we saw some protests also after elections in Belarus, but what is happening there right now is really unprecedented for better raise at this level of violence and this level of a broad support within society and this protest moods , um, the way they are wider spread within the society. It's really unprecedented. So, wow .

dana lewis :

Why is it, I mean, you're calling it a BelaRussian spring. Uh , it also seems like a very it's sounds like a Belorussian night in some ways, because it's, there are some dark moments here occurring on the street.

olga dryndova :

Um, well , uh, I mean I wrote a Bible, a recent sprint actually one month or two months ago , uh , before this happenings, because I was, I , I saw the very high level of mobilization and solidarity in the Belarus in society . So what we're seeing now is just the consequence of it. So it all started , uh , already during the pandemic. And I think you already know what was the official reaction of the deliberation president and the pandemics. So he called it the psychosis. He never believed that the virus is dangerous for people

Speaker 1:

Psychosis. And he said that, you know, have some vodka and ha and take a sauna and he didn't take it very serious.

Speaker 3:

No, he didn't. And I personally think he really didn't believe in this and that also himself, but the, the most, the , of the reasons just didn't find it funny, you know, because , uh, it's, their health is their lives. They saw on the spot that the hospitals were all filled with , uh , people who were , uh, who had this virus, people died, of course, and they just didn't feel safe. So they , uh, you know, they were thinking if the president has gotten Senate , it was a very important trigger and the trust to the president and to the authorities during the pandemic also dropped and we see to also the pulse. So it is just,

Speaker 1:

You said that they thought the president had gone insane. I mean, it's not the first talk of people saying that the Luca Shenko has mental problems. I mean, it's been around in social media for a long time, but that, that has spread like wildfire during the COVID-19 crisis. Has it?

Speaker 3:

I think, yes. I mean, I don't, I think I'm not, I don't have enough information in now to talk about his psychological , um, uh , condition, but it is really something different when you're president just, you know, has a strange manner of talking to international police politicians, which is very far from your daily life. And it's something different when , uh, when the problem is when you ask yourself, okay, will I be alive tomorrow because of the virus? You know , it's , it's really different things. And it's just the basis of his support. You know, the Belarusians have been supporting him for so long, or at least we're not protesting against him in such a great scale because they had, you know, more or less , um, uh , good . I would not even say good but stable economic condition. And there were no Wars and conflicts in values . I mean, it's one of the most important arguments that the president that we don't have anything like in the Ukraine and actually 2015 during the presidential elections, these arguments worked because loosen saw the pictures from the Ukraine and they didn't want these cows to happen in Delaware . And now he kind of broke his own social contract. You know , often we're talking about a kind of an unwritten contract between the Russians and the government , so that Belarusians stay not political. They just refrain from the protest refrain from expressing the position political position by bots . They get, you know, this more or less a stable economic situation. And they

Speaker 1:

Economically, it hasn't been very stable, right ?

Speaker 3:

It has been for quite a lot , a long time. I mean, they're , Belarusians whenever reach by the head some income, and this is within the pandemic. They didn't feel safe. And according to pulse, it's actually for the first time. I mean , um, I think it was about almost 60% of Belarussians actually admitted to the economic situation was bad. And it was for the first time in the last 20 years that they were feeling that economic live event in better results . It's also combination of the sectors. You know, they didn't feel safe , um, uh, in terms of their health, they didn't feel safe in terms of economic situation. And then it just coincided with election year. And then the third factor is of course that , uh , there , when you suddenly unexpected for everybody in , you faces in the Belarus in politics

Speaker 1:

About the , the biggest new face. And that is , uh , some Atlanta Tikkun old sky. If I'm saying that properly taken off sky ,

Speaker 3:

Well, she actually was not the biggest face. The biggest face was mr. [inaudible] , who is now jailed. And she was ex head of bell , bell Gus from bank. And she was actually the most popular , uh, could have been the most popular alternative candidate, but he was arrested because authorities understood that he was popular. Now what we have with the [inaudible] is quite a different story. She's just a wife and a housewife. She's a wife of a [inaudible] , who was also one of the new faces in the Belarusian politics, but he was another type of a face. She, she was a YouTube blogger. He's still is. He was traveling for just about one year through the regions of Belarus . And the comic condition of the regions is quite bad in comparison to Minsk . He was jailed because he was given the, you know, these people , uh , the , the opportunity to talk about this problems and then published it on YouTube and she became extremely popular. And that is the reason , uh, I mean, not the official one, but the three , why and why she was jailed because the system saw that he was actually a perceptive as a leader within those out , within this regional society books.

Speaker 1:

So what is going to happen is for Atlanta Tika , no sky, first of all, do you believe, I mean, it's, some of the polling stations are saying that she got huge numbers. Do you believe that she was probably elected? And what happens to her now? The fate of , of opposing Lucas Shenko is not very promising. And most people wind up in jail.

Speaker 3:

I don't really know because , uh, I mean Maybe Nick , not everywhere, but anyway, if we had free and fair elections, I would say that we always had a second tour in Delaware's new elections, but there was never a second tour. So loca Shanka , always one with, I dunno , 60, 70, 80%. And it was a paper bill. I mean, not okay , but people somehow didn't have this wish to protest this time. It was just too obvious because we saw how many people came to meetings with Steven NASCA . And one of the reasons for her success is actually, it's very funny because she's not a politician, but it's also the reason why she was popular because she wanted to initiate a new elections and she didn't actually want to stay in power. So people just believed her. She became symbol of solidarity in Protestant ballers. So people just want to change it. They didn't really care for, comes up to president

Speaker 1:

Him . Why did they say they're calling them online fascia 3% for people who don't speak Russian or Belarusian . Alexander is the long form for the short form of Sasha Sasha, the short form for Alex and they, so they started calling them Sasha 3%. What's that

Speaker 3:

Sasha 3% as a name is political map or in a political kind of political Mobil even of the president and it's become extremely popular. So the reason was there was some in official online polls made by independent online state media. They made this pulse about the ratings of the candidates, because there are not official independent polls allowed in Belarus. So people just wanted to know, okay , uh , where is it the support of the people? So, and she got just a location can go just about three to 6% in this ratings. And then this ratings on this view , this polls were , uh , prohibited by the state , uh , quite a fast, but this man , it , it just, it just, it was just left within society and it started to circle. So it went offline and we'll really see , uh, in all the cities , uh, you know, this, this figure of 3% people make jokes, people buy balloons with, you know , this three, when you have a burst that you have the speed , but everybody understands what it means. And they were also some of 3% fevers on the , on the road. Where, where were the cars? Um , what could the Caro is ? So it's , it's really become, I mean, of course it's not true. I don't believe that he's waiting. It's 3% . I think it's about, I don't know, maybe 20, 25, 15, but not 80% . Not , not , not, not then, but you still, you know , have this health state system that was working for him and the whole military structures and security structures. But you know, this man was, had a very important function because it showed people , uh , it was a kind of, you know , the presidents was not legitimate anymore and people showed, they didn't have any respect to him.

Speaker 1:

Okay. How does this end? Seems like it's just getting started.

Speaker 3:

Uh , you mean the, how the whole politicization and protest or

Speaker 1:

Yeah , you have an election. The people don't believe that the one that Lucas Shingo won any election and they're in the street, there's been violence. There's been at least a death . Uh , there's many people have been arrested and it seems like the anger is not going to go away and the disappointment is not going to go away. And it seems like nobody is going to accept this result.

Speaker 3:

Yes, you're quiet . I mean, right. At least in my opinion, I'm quite sure that we also see a further protest today. Um, people were scared, but people after there were dispersed, quite a lot of them came once a while , came back once again. So people are scared to be scared. And it's, you know, and you level of, of, of , um , political activity in Belarus, you never saw before. I think people will protest once again, we'll already have information that , um, uh, one of the States , um, enterprises in Belarus has begun a strike. And now in this telegram channels, which are, by the way in this election campaign, a very important source of information and very one of the most important stones source for politicization mobilization of people. So they already calls for , uh, for a nationwide strike starting for tomorrow. We still don't know how many state enterprises will join the strike , but there are these conversations. Um, the problem is a bit that most Belarussians still don't know what has happened because they still don't have internet. So, I mean, we're talking to you right now and the whole international community already has seen this. I've seen this picture, but Belarusians, they just have private contexts . They send each other some, some pictures, but they don't really have a health picture. So I think people will just start to organize themselves. And it also depends on direction of because so far he , she has not called for projects so far. She's only called for people yesterday to come to the electoral election polls and to make, you know, the psychological pressure on the election conditions, which actually worked at at least 85 electric.

Speaker 1:

I'm not going to let you get away so easily. And I'm going to , I'm going to try you on this. Is Lucas Shanko finished or do you think he will try to hold on

Speaker 3:

Both? I mean, I don't see any, you know, conflict here he's finished within society. She was already before the election, but now after this violence, after the bland and after the death , Belarusians have never had death during the protest is quite new. It's not upgrading , it's not, you know, other States Belarusians are peaceful nation and there were peaceful yesterday. They're quite shocked. So his finished psychologically sociologically , but he will try . I mean, of course he will try to stay in power, but, well, the question is to which level of violence , violence against people, are you ready? And what reaction, of course also from , from the Westbrook come , it's also very important factoring , thank you for a lot of that. You are , you know, trying to spread this information because it's, it could also be a kind of a, you know, international pressure, what has happened in Delaware . So I don't really see maybe a months ago, I would say, okay, wouldn't be reelected regressions, but you know, people would still kind of have to do invent some large scale protest actions of one, two years after elections. But after this bloodiest scenario yesterday, I think people are just furious. They were Andrew with him, but now they could be hating him. And it's, you know, now the level of reaction that can come from society.

Speaker 1:

Well , good. Rendova talking to us from Bremen, Olga, thank you so much for sharing your, your thoughts. And the perspective is really important now. And I think Russia must be watching and maybe rattled in the Kremlin, seeing what's going on in Byelorussia . And there are some other former Soviet countries where democracy has been stillborn . And I think we all watch these things and wonder if, if democracy is going to take root , uh, or it's going to continue to be canned by people like Luca Shenko . So thank you for your comment . Thank you, Allison Alexander Lucas Shenko is no friend to the West and he's not exactly pals with Russian president. Poof . Now he's isolated more than ever, and people who live under his rule seem to be saying again and again, we don't want you anymore, and we won't have you anymore. As the last dictator in Europe, it may take days or weeks or months for this to play out and we'll be watching that's this edition of backstory. I'm Dana Lewis share this it's important. People understand what's happening and subscribe. And I'll talk to you again soon .

Speaker 3:

[inaudible] .