Alexander Lukashenko, whose presidency is considered illegitimate by the United States and the European Union, convened an “All-Belarusian People’s Assembly” on February 11-12 and reiterated that it was not a “color revolution” but a “blitzkrieg” against the country based on “certain internal forces.” Ended in failure.
The main motto of the “All-Belarusian People’s Assembly” was to “improve the political system” of the country, although Lukashenko did not mention the release of political prisoners, the cessation of repression or the holding of early presidential elections, as demanded by the Belarusian opposition.
Moreover, in parallel with the People’s Assembly, the persecution of activists and freelance journalists in Belarus intensified and the accusations against political opponents in prison were further aggravated.
Lukashenko again compared Belarus to a “beloved woman”
The “All-Belarusian People’s Assembly” was first initiated by Alexander Lukashenko in 1996, and even then, as a result of constitutional changes, it gained indefinite power. The People’s Assembly has been held in Minsk for the sixth time since then.
This numerous political forums are very similar in form to the congresses of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, since both then and now such congresses are held every 5 years. Among the 2,700 delegates are representatives of various branches of the state, security and defense, collective farmers and workers, doctors and teachers, representatives of culture, science, art, sports and religious organizations loyal to the government, whom Lukashenko called “the most prominent patriots.”
The “All-Belarusian People’s Assembly” is similar to the Soviet-era congresses in that the Belarusian autocratic leader, like the General Secretary of the Communist Party, opens the assembly and concludes with a final speech. However, the Belarusian leader is not limited in his speech.
On February 11, Alexander Lukashenko delivered a speech lasting 4 hours.
In his program speech, Lukashenko again compared Belarus to a beloved woman who needs care and warning.
“If we continue to take care of this, Belarus will be a country of the future – a secure, comfortable and safe country for all. You are the masters of this country and its capital. You, the people of Belarus, are writing your own life story and you have to make your life story become part of the history of our beautiful, cozy country. “And remember that we must be careful not to give it to anyone, because the beloved woman is not given to others,” Alexander Lukashenko said at the end of his four-hour speech on February 11.
Speaking at the meeting, Lukashenko proposed that a referendum on the country’s new constitution be held in 2022, in parallel with the regional elections. Earlier, Lukashenko hinted that he might step down as president after the new constitution is adopted, although he did not say so directly at the February 11-12 congress.
Instead, he said, the country should remain a strong presidential republic and the “All-Belarusian People’s Assembly”, according to Lukashenko, should be given the status of a constitutional body.
“Springboard for attack on Russia”
Belarus’s autocratic leader, whose regime is under EU sanctions for rigging the August 9 presidential election, has called Belarus “the last sovereign state” in Europe.
“That is why there is a struggle to bring our country into the sphere of European influence. Belarus – This is the dominant height on the battlefield. Whoever masters it, he will achieve victory. But you should know that no one can kneel us down and no one can bend our bow. “We just want to maintain our political stability, we want to remain a sovereign and independent country on the world map,” Lukashenko said.
In order to maintain this stability, the de facto leader of Belarus attaches crucial importance to cooperation with Russia.
As it is known, Alexander Lukashenko plans to arrive in Russia at the end of February and meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. One of the main issues to be discussed by the Russian media is the allocation of another $ 3 billion loan to Minsk.
It is noteworthy that the leaders of the two countries last met on September 14 last year, at the peak of the ongoing general protests and strikes in Belarus, which caused great damage to the country’s economy. Lukashenko then managed to get the Kremlin to lend Minsk $ 1.5 billion.
To set the stage for talks with Putin, Lukashenka called the Russians the “closest brotherly people” who would never betray him. He stressed that Moscow’s assistance was crucial in the recent events, which were also aimed at attacking Russia.
“Belarus launched a brutal attack from outside … and, above all, as I have always said, it was a test of their weapons. “It was a springboard for an attack on Russia,” Lukashenko said on February 11.
As for integration with Russia, the “All-Belarusian People’s Assembly” focused on this issue, but did not say anything about specific plans.
Speaking about the constitutional changes, Lukashenko said that among the changes is the rejection of the principle of neutrality. According to the country’s constitution, Belarus is part of a military-political bloc with Russia, but Minsk’s foreign policy goal is to strive for neutrality, although Lukashenko says it is “impossible to remain neutral today.”
246 political prisoners
Mr Lukashenko addressed a possible issue of amnesty for political opponents in the People’s Assembly, but denied the existence of political prisoners. He criticized private business representatives and strongly said that businessmen should work for the “state”.
In particular, Lukashenko criticized one of his main rivals during the presidential election, Viktar Babarika, who is currently in pre-trial detention.
Former banker Victar Babarica, who was arrested last year and barred from running in the August presidential election, will appear in court on February 17. A statement to this effect was posted on Babarika’s Telegram channel on February 4, following a preliminary hearing in the Minsk court in connection with the case.
Viktar Babarika, the former governor of Belgazprobank, one of the country’s largest banks, who announced last year that he was going to run in the presidential election, was arrested shortly afterwards in June along with his son Edward. They are accused of money laundering, bribery and tax evasion.
Three days after their arrest, Belarusian authorities took control of Babarika Bank and arrested more than a dozen employees on charges of tax evasion and money laundering.
All detainees deny the charges and consider them politically motivated to be prosecuted.
After arresting some of its opponents and forcing some – Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Valery Tsepkala and her husband, Veronica Tsepkala – to leave the country, the Belarusian regime continues to detain and prosecute remaining opponents.
At a time when Alexander Lukashenko was talking about the need for a “new political force” to come to the country from a high tribune, one of the leaders of the Belarusian opposition, Maria Zalenzakov, and his co-leader, Maxim Kaleznikova, were officially accused of conspiracy to seize power and lead extremist groups.
On February 11, law enforcement officers arrested Tatiana Skaptsova-Petrovskaya, a freelance author of the independent portal TUT.BY, on suspicion of running “destructive” channels.
The prosecutor’s office has filed new charges against Maria Ryabkova, the coordinator of the human rights group Viasna, who was arrested along with her husband last September by members of the Organized Crime Division.
Her husband was released the same evening, and Ryabkova faces up to 12 years in prison on charges of membership in a criminal organization and inciting social disgust with the authorities along with unidentified individuals.
Opponents of the regime and civil society activists in Belarus have been protesting since August 9, calling for a new presidential election, an end to repression and the release of political prisoners.
In almost nine months, a total of 1,800 cases were opened against protesters in Belarus, presidential candidates and their staff members.
Thousands of protesters were deliberately tortured, humiliated and treated inhumanely after their arrest.
The human rights center Viasna has documented that there are more than 1,000 victims of torture in the country.
Many politically motivated criminal trials are closed and do not involve journalists, human rights defenders, or members of the public.
According to Viasna, 246 people are currently considered political prisoners in Belarus.