Belarus: growing pressure on the opposition

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski has been sentenced to ten years in prison in Minsk. The Belarusian pro-democracy activist was charged with "smuggling and financing public unrest". The exiled opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya was also sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison for "conspiring to seize power". Europe’s commentators are alarmed.

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

1,400 people torn away from their lives

In an opinion piece for the Tages-Anzeiger, Lars Bünger, President of the NGO Libereco — Partnership for Human Rights, describes the plight of Bialiatski and other prisoners:

“Alongside Ales there are currently more than 1,400 political prisoners in Belarus, more than 1,400 people who have been dragged away from their jobs, their studies, their families, their circle of friends, their everyday lives, their normal lives. They all wake up day after day in prison and are held there in total violation of the rule of law under dreadful prison conditions. Every day, Ales and all other political prisoners face the threat of further harassment, ill-treatment, torture or punishments such as solitary confinement for weeks. They are all completely defenceless and their lives are in danger.”

Lars Bünger
Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Lukashenka doesn’t care about his image

The only thing that matters to the Belarusian ruler is maintaining his grip on power, Rzeczpospolita comments:

“Lukashenka will thus go down in history as a dictator who sentenced a Nobel Prize winner to many years in prison. In doing so he has put his country on a par with the Third Reich and Communist China. But the head of state, who has already put 1,457 political prisoners behind bars, does not care about his image. All he cares about is staying in power and how to get rid of more ‘disloyal’ citizens.”

Rusłan Szoszyn
Politiken (DK) /

A gateway for China

Politiken explains why the repression of the Belarusian opposition is something all Europe should be worried about:

“Lukashenka is afraid that the price of Putin’s protection will be that Belarus is swallowed up by Russia and eventually ceases to be an independent state. ... So he is now seeking a counterbalance through closer ties with China’s authoritarian leader Xi Jinping, who will thus be able to increase his influence over Europe. ... Lukashenka’s repression is thus our problem too: he can give autocrats internal access to Europe.”