Oleg Kozlovsky’s English Weblog

Politics, Democracy and Human Rights in Russia

Belarus, a Russia’s Small Copy

with 9 comments

I visited Belarus a few days ago with a group of Oborona activists. We were meeting with local opposition organizations and leaders, observing municipal elections and participating in an annual march dedicated to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster–Chernobylsky Shlyakh.

Belarussian elections are largely similar to Russian in their predefined outcome, persisting abuse of power by the authorities and even methods of fraud. Like in Russia, they use preliminary voting as a means to both increase turnout and falsify the results (since the bulletins are kept at administration offices till the election day). As much as 30% of Belarussian electorate voted preliminary, according to official data. This unbelievable figure is more than even some of the most scandalous elections in Sochi a year ago (when the Kremlin was ready to do what it takes to prevent opposition leader Boris Nemtsov from becoming the mayor). Most opposition candidates were denied registration, so they couldn’t even get on the lists–the same we see in Russia. In the end, in many district it looks like the electoral commissions didn’t count the votes at all: they simply wrote the target figures. No suprise, not even a dozen seats were won by the opposition out of 20,000+.

The rally was attended by some 1,000 to 1,500 participants including several activists of Oborona. The Chernobyl disaster caused incredible damage to Ukraine, Belarus and Russia and its consequences are still there. The march in Minsk has become a tradition since 1988; its demands concern environmental, social and political issues.

Alas, I didn’t make it to the march. I and two other Coordinators of Oborona, Maria and Alexey Kazakovs, were arrested an hour before the rally begun as we were leaving headquarters of an opposition party Belarussian People’s Front. A van stopped next to us, half a dozen spetsnaz (SWAT) troops put us into the van and left. Our friends and other eyewitnesses say that it looked more like a kidnapping than an arrest.

We were taken to the Sovetsky district police HQ and interrogated. The police were asking us, who we had met with, what was the purpose of the travel, what organization we were at, etc. etc. They threated to take us into custody if we refused to answer, but gave up after several hours. Then the infamous BT, Belarus state TV, tried to “interview” us right in the police, but were ignored. After 5-hour long interrogation police took our fingerprints, photographed us and even took DNA samples and let us go without any charges. A small crowd of Russian and Belarus activists greeted us at the police HQ doorstep.


Written by Oleg Kozlovsky

April 29, 2010 at 00:02

9 Responses

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  1. Oleg, which nation’s police do you think would be more likely to do you physical harm while in custody in such situations, those in Belarus or in Russia?


    April 29, 2010 at 05:54

  2. In general, Belarusian police are more known for beating local opposition activists and conducting other nasty things like kidnapping, imitating executions etc. In Moscow, it’s still very seldom; our police are a bit afraid of us. Of course, it’s just Moscow: in Chechnya or Ingushetia we would be lucky to stay alive after the arrest.

    On the other hand, as foreigners we were considered “special” for Belarusian cops and they behaved very respectfully (as much as this word can be applyed to the situation), better than their Moscow counterparts.

    Oleg Kozlovsky

    April 29, 2010 at 09:06

  3. You forgot to mention Oleg, that in Chechnya and Ingushetia you will be handled by local authorities, who have their own local standards :-)

    Leos Tomicek

    April 29, 2010 at 22:26

  4. Leos, of course, it’s true. But their “standards” are tolerated by the federal government that has huge authority over local administrations.

    Oleg Kozlovsky

    April 29, 2010 at 23:35

  5. I don’t think that in the case of Chechnya, the Russian government has other favourable leaders waiting in line.

    Leos Tomicek

    May 15, 2010 at 19:25

  6. “Russia is terribly tired of Lukashenko and is looking for a decent leader to replace him,” says Igor Bunin of Moscow’s Center of Political Technologies. Moscow’s candidate of choice could well be Andrei Sannikov, a veteran Belarussian opposition leader who is not too close to the West and has declared that he is “ready to embrace Russian help if it comes from the right people.” Lukashenko, he says, “has been scared lately after he saw how Russia can support a revolution in former Soviet countries.”



    May 16, 2010 at 20:57

  7. Moscow Keeps Pushing for ‘Regime Change’ in Georgia
    By Giorgi Kvelashvili

    Ex-prime minister Zurab Noghaideli, who now champions the pro-Kremlin cause in Georgia, was quick to discern the ‘reality’ with which a reemerging Russia leaves the post-Soviet space. He has already threatened that the “Bishkek scenario” will be repeated in Tbilisi if the upcoming local elections in Georgia “are rigged,” which is a euphemism for a loss by his political party. While the opinion polls show that Noghaideli and his allies are supported by no more than 9% of the Georgian public, they are conducting their election campaign under the slogan “It’s already falsified,” putting their signs at subway stations, government buildings, apartment
    houses and construction sites in the Georgian capital.



    May 16, 2010 at 21:05

  8. To everyone interested and dedicated to bringing democracy and civility to the Russian Federation, the NEW YORK TIMES is doing its part to help. Please see today’s, May 18, 2010, edition, and submit your comments and videos as soon as possible.

    As an American who admires and respects the many good things about Russia and hopes that the talent of its people can be unleashed to address the problems that face us all, I am asking for your all out effort here.

    Mr. Medvedev and Mr. Putin, your people deserve better! I sincerely hope you will address the well-documented corruption and suppression of free speech that plagues your country. We wait anxiously for your response!

    Sam Ogilvie

    May 18, 2010 at 14:22

  9. @ Boris

    Georgian government could give Russian government lessons on totalitarianism.

    @ Sam

    But the Russian people do not want better. Just look at the opposition. It’s all nationalist or communist. Oborona and Solidarnost’ are insignificant.

    Leos Tomicek

    May 24, 2010 at 04:39

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