Belarus Opposition Leader Taken by Masked Men
Reports of masked men taking opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova surfaced on Monday. Wires were quick to blame law enforcement in Minsk for the abduction. However, the local police were quicker to deny any involvement in her disappearance. In contrast, fingers are now pointing to the involvement of the President.
Ms. Kolesnikova was one of three women to challenge Alexander Lukashenko in the elections. The other two challengers have already fled the country pressured by the country’s security services.
Recent reports place Ms. Kolesnikova detained at the Ukrainian borders. She was last seen emerging from a vehicle in an attempt to prevent expulsion from Belarus. She is currently being held at the border. However, there is no indication of her being released or about her wellbeing.
Europe Still Vocal on Demands As Riots Continue
EU’s demands have only been vocal so far. Only certain EU figures have expressed their concerns over the recent abduction.
The Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevicius said:
“The outgoing leadership is trying cynically to eliminate [opposition leaders] one by one”.
In addition, UK’s Dominic Raab has stated that:
“The regime must cease brutalizing protesters, release political prisoners and begin a dialogue with the opposition.”
Unfortunately, their criticism has not been matched with any action yet. Even previous sanctions imposed on Belarus officials will not come into play until the 21st of September.
Both the US and the EU are keen to see Lukashenko removed from office and for Belarus to return to normalcy.
Trump Presented With Opportunity
The US will be concerned over recent reports of Belarusia’s independence to Russia indeed.
Given that certain Baltic countries have imposed sanctions on Belarus, Minsk will now have to export its products via Russian ports. This will make the country even more dependent on Russia, giving the Kremlin the upper hand on submerging the country.
Will further sanctions make the existing partnership with the Kremlin stronger?
Russia has stood by Lukashenko throughout the protests. In 2020 and 2021, Belarus is expected to receive 24 million tonnes of Russian oil.
Will Trump seize the opportunity to boost his own election struggles by loosening Russia’s influence? Or cave in with his political battles against Biden?
What Lessons Can We Learn from the Unrest?
We have seen the results of how previous regimes have intervened in the fall of dictatorships. In 2011, Sarkozy and Cameron lent their support in the ousting of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Libya then descended into violence with rival governments and militias gaining a foothold.
Could we see a similar pattern emerging here?
If opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova remains detained, we will certainly see the civil unrest escalate. Succeding, however, to produce a fair and democratic election in Belarus might settle tensions down, leading to a political transition beyond return.