Nobel Peace Prize: What life is like in Belarus and why the country is involved in the war between Russia and Ukraine | World

The award highlighted the constant allegations of abuse of power, authoritarianism and repression of the opposition in Belarus, overshadowed by the war in Ukraine that threw the spotlight on neighboring countries.

A demonstrator is detained during a protest in Minsk, Belarus, on Wednesday (12) – Photo: Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters

Belarus is a former member of the former and defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The separation took place in 1991, when Stanislav Shushkevitch met with Boris Yeltsin and Leonid Kravtchuk, then leaders of Russia and Ukraine, respectively, ending the USSR.

The country’s constitution took time to form, being ratified only in 1994. This new text gave the president the powers and responsibilities that belonged to the prime minister.

In the first national election, Alexander Lukashenko was elected, repeating the feat five other times to date.

Alexander Lukashenko, dictator of Belarus, pictured April 26 — Photo: Sergei Sheleg/BelTA Pool Photo via AP, File

Several authoritarian measures, such as increasing the presidential term to seven years and removing the re-election limit (policies created by Lukashenko), were frowned upon by other countries and other organizations. The Council of Europe, for example, banned Belarus membership in 1997.

These decisions led to various social movements made in the most repressed layers of the country. In response, Ales Bialiatski founded the organization Viasna and participated in the widespread demonstrations of the time.

A woman covers herself with the old Belarusian flag — Photo: Associated Press

The country’s opposition has always tried to express itself, however, in the most recent election, in 2020, the movement increased its representation in the country and in Europe. Hundreds of thousands of protesters defied the brutal actions of the country’s security forces to take to the streets of the capital Minsk, where artists and activists joined forces with workers and civil servants to demand a new, free and fair election.

The movement gained the brand #FreeBelarus, which was once again used on social media after Bialiatski’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Protesters in downtown Minsk, Belarus, against President Alexander Lukashenko — Photo: Reuters

This movement adopts another flag, different from the one that exists today.

Lukashenko denied stealing the election and cracked down on the opposition, whose key members were arrested or forced to flee.

Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus, and Roman Protasevich — Photo: Nikolai Petrov/BelTA/Handout via Reuters and Reuters/Stringer

In 2021 journalist Roman Protasevich, a dissident blogger critical of Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, was arrested by Belarusian forces while flying from Athens (Greece) to Vilnius (Lithuania). At the time, the flight was diverted to Minsk by the Belarusian authorities and he was arrested.

More recently, in May, his girlfriend Sofia Sapega was sentenced to six years in prison for “inciting social hatred”.

Belarus said at the time that it ordered the plane to land following an anonymous tip that there was a bomb on board. The bomb threat turned out to be false and Protasevich and Sapega were immediately arrested.

Belarus’ Influence on the War

Russian war vehicle in a military exercise held in Belarus on Friday (11) – Photo: Russian Defense Ministry/Via Reuters

Lukashenko, the current president of Belarus, is one of Putin’s great allies. At the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, in February and March of this year, the country was used as a support center for Moscow’s forces that intended to reach Kiev from the north of the country.

Growing support between Russia and Belarus causes Ukraine to be suppressed, territorially speaking.

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