Belarus’ authoritarian leader visits his foes against prison

KYIV, Ukraine — Belarus’ authoritarian president on Saturday visited a prison to speak to opposition activists, who were jailed for hard his re-election which was broadly viewed as manipulated and triggered two weeks of protests.

President Alexander Lukashenko spent over four hours speaking to his jailed political foes in the Minsk prison which belongs to Belarus’ State Security Committee, that goes beneath its Soviet-era title, KGB.

Lukashenko’s office stated that”the aim of the president was supposed to hear everybody’s opinion.” One of 11 jailed activists who attended the meeting has been many members of the resistance’s Coordination Council and Viktor Babariko, the former head of a significant Russia-owned bank. Babariko aspired to challenge Lukashenko but had been prohibited by the race and stayed in jail since his arrest in May on charges that he disregarded as political.

Lukashenko’s landslide re-election from the Aug. 9 vote has been broadly viewed as manipulated involving widespread public frustration with the Belarusian leader’s 26-year authoritarian rule, his cavalier reaction to the coronavirus pandemic as well as the worsening market.

A violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators at the very first days following the vote, where thousands were detained and hundreds were beaten by authorities, triggered global outrage and helped swell protesters’ positions.

The major opposition challenger in the vote, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, that left for Lithuania following the election under pressure by governments, throw Lukashenko’s trip to prison as a consequence of continuing demonstrations and advocated maintaining a push to get new elections.

“With this assembly, Lukashenko realized the presence of political prisoners whom he dismissed as offenders,” she said in a statement. “Today’s event is due to our stress.”

They’ve slapped scores of Belarusian officials using sanctions due to their part in the alleged vote-rigging along with the crackdown on protests but did not aim Lukashenko himself.

EU members Poland and Lithuania are particularly outspoken in their support for Belarusian opposition politicians, resulting in diplomatic tensions that have comprised Belarus’ government expelling Polish and Lithuanian diplomats. Those two nations reacted by withdrawing their ambassadors to Minsk.

At a tweet,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab condemned the choice, tagging it as”completely unjustified.” He explained the temporary recall of the ambassador” for consultations about the situation in Belarus” was meant to show”solidarity” with all the men and women who live in the nation.

But, enormous demonstrations have continued, reaching their peak amounts on Sundays up to 100,000 floodings the roads of the Belarusian capital, Minsk. Another huge demonstration is planned for this Sunday.

Many participants at the rally were arrested.

Pavel Latushko, a former culture minister and ambassador to France, who joined the resistance’s Coordination Council and has been driven by police to leave the country, said the meeting revealed the Belarusian leader’s ruling.

“Lukashenko has been made to sit at the negotiation table with all the men and women whom he imprisoned,” Latushko said in a statement, demanding the release of political offenders.

Observers saw Lukashenko’s trip to prison as part of his attempts to sneak the protesters’ thunder by providing vaguely-described reforms, such as his suggestion to draft a new constitution. Throughout the meeting prison, Lukashenko emphasized that”the ministry can not be composed in the roads,” his office said without supplying different specifics of this assembly.

“The conversation of a new constitution is an effort by the authorities to mimic a dialogue. It might allow Lukashenko to drown the protests in talks, decrease anxieties and enforce his schedule both in the nation and also to overseas players,” Karbalevich said.