Belarus opposition activist found dead in Ukraine park. Belarusian sprinter leaves the Olympics under the protection of Japanese police. Boris Johnson meets the exiled Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya in Downing Street. Professor Elena Korosteleva’s expert comment here on what this means for Lukashenko here.
Elena Korosteleva, Professor of International Politics in the School of Politics and International Relations, appeared on Channel 4 News and LBC on 03 August 2021 commenting on the recent international political developments on Belarus:
‘The two recent incidents, one at the Olympics involving a Belarusian athlete Kristina Timanovskaya, who has sought asylum in Poland, and the death under suspicious circumstances of Vitaly Shishov, Head of the Belarusian House in Ukraine, a humanitarian charity providing support for Belarusians fleeing from persecution, demonstrates President Lukashenko’s continuing disregard for international law, norms and values’.
It has been a year since the disputed presidential election in Belarus, which declared the incumbent, Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power for over 26 years, a winner again, with 80.1% of the vote; while Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a single opposition leader, who stepped in last minute to replace her imprisoned husband, reportedly gathered only 10.1%. The sheer discrepancy between the official and alternative figures registered by digital platforms Golos, Zubr and Chestnye Lyudi was so stark that it caused massive backlash throughout the country with the hundreds of thousands of Belarusians gathering for peaceful protests in Minsk and other major cities. The authorities responded with the unprecedented levels of violence which shocked the nation and the world. Numerous videos shared on social and independent media recorded OMON’s (state security forces) appalling brutality beating up thousands of people, including children and elderly. A year on, around 45,000 people have been detained, fined and sentenced for up to several years in prison; 600 people are registered as political prisoners while some of them are facing trial and death sentence. The authorities are building concentration camps running out of space for political activists. Belarus can legitimately be classed as a rogue state, as since August 2020 over 30000 people have been interned in prison.
Kristina Timanovskaya, a Belarusian sprinter refused to follow orders from her coaches telling her to perform 4x400m relay which she never specialised in, at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. She was ordered to come back to Belarus, which she rejected pleading for help from the International Olympic Committee. She was subsequently granted humanitarian visa by Poland, and left the Olympics under the protection of Japanese police.
Vitaly Shishov was recently found hung in a Kiev park, his body displayed marks of abuse and severe beating. The case is similar to the other activists found dead in Minsk after challenging the Belarusian authorities.
Svetlana Tikhanovskaya met with Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab this week, to discuss the situation in Belarus, and to ask for firmer and stronger support from the international community. The Prime Minister said the UK stands in solidarity with the people of Belarus and will continue to take action to support them.
Watch the Channel 4 news piece here.
Listen to Professor Elena Korosteleva on LBC radio:
Belarusian Olympic Sprinter leaves Tokyo with another twist in her story; Korosteleva in this NBC piece.