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New protests in Belarus : Opposition starts spring offensive against Lukashenko

Olga Solotar was on the way to the music school in Minsk with her daughter when the employees of the Belarusian secret service KGB stopped her car and asked the young woman to turn back. In front of the apartment, other KGB employees were waiting to search the premises. Thereafter, the mother of four was arrested and taken to the number 1 detention center. Just like her husband later. The accusation against the couple is: "Protest activities". They had hung a white-red-white flag in the window. White-red-white are the colors of the protest movement against the dictator Alexander Lukashenko.

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The incident has been discussed on social networks for days, which is even fine with the notorious security organs of the ruler. The action against the family was intended to be a deterrent, as were the numerous searches, arrests and trials by which the regime increased pressure on its opponents prior to March 25. This day has long been a symbolic date for the Belarusian opposition, the "Day of Freedom". On March 25, 1918, after the fall of tsarism, the independent Belarusian People's Republic was founded, but it was only able to last a few months.

The ruthless violence has deterred demonstrators

This year the "Freedom Day" should be the beginning of a spring offensive against Lukashenko. In the cold winter months, people in Belarus no longer took to the streets by the tens of thousands, as they did in the weeks after Lukashenko's falsified presidential election in August 2020. Opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaya even said: "I have to admit, we lost the street." Thousands protested Thursday, but no longer the masses who wanted to end Lukashenko's power last year.

There are a number of reasons for this. The ruthless violence with which the regime is cracking down on the opposition is crucial, but not the only one. More than 30,000 people have been sentenced to so-called administrative detention in the past few months, they had to go to jail for ten or 15 days. The leaders of the opposition were forced into exile, while others, such as Maria Kolesnikova, face several years' imprisonment. Last but not least, the "everyday" violence, which can strike anyone suddenly, such as the Solotar family, has a deterrent effect.

Tichanovskaya calls for a round table

In addition, Lukashenko has so far succeeded in rallying his power elite - especially the repressive security apparatus - together. Many of the dissatisfied people who marched last summer and autumn are now obviously satisfied with Lukashenko's announcement that there will be a constitutional reform and that he will resign. But the Minsk political scientist Alexander Klaskowski says: "The discontent has remained, the political crisis is not over, the economic situation is deteriorating." Time is working against the regime, he says. However, one should "not expect any fairytale victories for Tichanovskaya and her team". "It will be a longer, difficult and contradicting process."

This is also what the opposition assumes. Tichanowskaja wants to force Lukashenko into a dialogue at the round table. A petition for this was published on the Internet, which almost 800,000 people joined in a very short time. Klaskowski sees little chance that Lukashenko will enter into a dialogue with Tichanovskaya: "If he didn't do it in the most critical moment for him in August, September, why should he do it now, when the street has disappeared as a political factor?" , he asks. Hoping for it would be of no use.

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