Staunton, August 31 – Many observers expect the protests in Belarus to ebb, but that is unlikely, New Times Minsk correspondent Denis Davnikevich says, because the number of people available to protest is growing as universities are reopening, bringing more people into the capital, and the harvest is finished, allowing agricultural workers to join the protests.
In an article surveying the evolution of the Belarus revolution over the last three week, Davnikevich argues that it has passed through three stages but that the demonstrators still control the streets, that telegram channels like NEXTA have played a key role in this, and that Lukashenka can count on Moscow but perhaps only until November.
According to the New Times journalist on the scene, the Belarusian revolution began as a protest against the falsification of the election, drew in ever more people and expanded its focus, and now is in the process of organizing as a movement to put ever more pressure on Lukashenka to exit the scene (newtimes.ru/articles/detail/196921?fcc).
And it has done so despite Lukashenka’s deployment of siloviki against the demonstrators. They have retained control of the streets in Minsk and other Belarusian cities throughout, and there is no sign that this is about to change, Davnikevich says, unless there is some kind of massive intervention.
The correspondent says that telegram channels have played “a special role” in all this, although most commentaries have talked about only one, NEXTA, which is based in Poland and is run by Belarusian student Stepan Putilo with assistance from his father, Aleksandr, who does sports programming for Belsat.
There are in fact a large number of telegram channels involved – Davnikevich lists seven in addition to NEXTA – and they do not always agree with one another or promote a single agenda. Instead, they provide a forum for debate and discussion as the Belarusian revolution continues.
As the situation in Minsk has evolved from something like a Maidan into a real revolution, Lukashenka has shifted gears. During the election, he played up his opposition to Moscow. Now, he insists he, his country and Russia are threatened by NATO countries on his borders.
For the moment, Moscow is ready to support him on that basis; but, Davnikevich says, Moscow hasn’t given Lukashenka a blank check. The Belarusian leader will remain in power “legitimately” on the basis of earlier elections only until November. He is on notice to solve things by then. If he doesn’t, Moscow will need to rethink what it wants to do.