Protests Continue Against the Leader of “Europe’s Last Authoritarian Regime”

Avani Lakkireddy
By Avani Lakkireddy
The disappearance of three leaders of the Belarusian protests faces stark outcry from leaders and people around the world, as Alexander Lukashenko is reelected.
Day after day, the younger generation of Belarus takes to the streets to protest the only leader they have known: Alexander Lukashenko. First coming to power in 1994, Lukashenko has been in power for almost 26 years, and protesters say that the latest election result is simply an insult to the democracy that they were promised.

Alice Sitnikova, a student at Minsk State Linguistic University, recently wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that, “Despite Lukashenko’s claims that democracy equals chaos, we see no proof of that in other countries. In fact, we see the exact opposite: Our democratic neighbors seem a lot more content and well off than the overwhelming majority of Belarusians and Russians.” 

Lukashenko’s reign over Belarus has plunged the country into immense economic stagnation. No major growth has taken place since his first election in 1994, yet he still claims that with his removal, the country would plunge into its Soviet-era economic depression. His most recent reelection has threatened to drop Belarus into its worst economic recession in years.  On top of that, Lukashenko’s administration has gone to dire lengths to silence anyone who has the courage to run or speak out against him. 

A prime example of this is the disappearance of Maria Kolesnikova, a member of the Coordination Council, the main opposition group to Lukashenko’s administration. On September 7th, Kolesnikova and two other colleagues from the group disappeared off the streets of downtown Minsk. The Ukrainian State Border Guard reported that the two colleagues crossed into Ukraine at 4:00 AM. Kolesnikova, however, did not. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the main opposition candidate in Belarus’s election, spoke to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, saying that “We still don’t know where Maria Kolesnikova is.” 

Kolesnikova later returned to Belarus and stated that she was forcefully thrown into a van with two other passengers, and was told that she would leave Belarus, “alive or in bits.” As a last resort, Kolesnikova ripped up her passport and threw it out the window to prevent her deportation.

Tikhanovskaya and her advisor, Veronika Tsepkalo, were both forced to flee Belarus as well, in fear that their families would be targeted. The unlawful jailing and kidnapping of opposition leaders are just some of the many horrific tactics that Lukashenko has used to silence his opponents. He has repeatedly revoked licenses for journalists who report on his wrongdoings, as well as beating and incarcerating thousands of peaceful protesters. 

The US has been almost completely silent on this issue, only issuing a small comment. Other Eastern European countries, however, have wasted no time taking sides. The Polish Prime Minister has recently offered Tikhanovskaya asylum, siding with the opposition. Russia, on the other hand, showed its support for Lukashenko almost immediately to pass the long sought after union agreement that would push Russia’s border all the way to Poland and Lithuania. Putin and Lukashenko hailed commonly as Europe’s last dictators, have similar administrations, in that both continue to diminish and downplay the importance of democracy in society. 

After 26 years of Lukashenko’s authority, protesters have spoken out against the refusal to give people equality, freedom of speech, and most of all, a reliable democratic society. This, among other protests in Venezuela and Hong Kong, show that constituents will no longer stand for a system that repeatedly hurts them. This fight is not only necessary for the people of the present, but to create a just society for all who come after. 


B-Line students write articles that capture what it means to be part of the Barstow community, and record, review and analyze current events.

B-Line's origins date back to 1897, when students published "The School Paper," from Barstow's Quality Hill campus. It was published under various names in following decades, including "The Cornpatch," when Barstow moved to State Line in 1961. Today, B-Line is primarily a digital publication.
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    Avani Lakkireddy
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