What’s up gang, today we’re talking about Belarus, and you’re gonna like it. First things first, in order to pander to your goldfish-like attention spans I’d like to announce that there is a city in Belarus called Slutsk, and it’s where your mom is from. Now let’s get into it.
The president of Belarus is Alexander Lukashenko, and he sucks. You know that kid in high school that’s just a little too into the Soviet Union? Like, he calls everyone comrade and he says ‘blyat’ instead of ‘fuck’ and he would rather relive the week of history class that was spent on the Russian Revolution than lose his virginity? Lukashenko is like that kid, but if that kid also ran an authoritarian government for 26 years with a penchant for violating the human rights of his citizens.
Anyway, this past month, he’s been up to his old dictatorial hijinks -- classic Lukashenko. Here’s a timeline: On August 9th, he hosted an election so blatantly bullshit, it was an embarrassment to dictators everywhere. Although apparently nobody told dictators that, because the next day, Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin called to congratulate their glorified band kid friend on his thinly veiled power grab. And when your best pals are two weirdly cuddly-looking mass-murderers, I’d maybe wanna start worrying about your image.
Which brings me to the aftermath of Belarus’ Let’s-All-Throw-Useless-Pieces-of-Paper-Into -Cardboard-Boxes-Fest 2020, which wasn’t pretty. As state-run news agency Belta began to show Lukashenko leading in the polls, Belarusians began to break shit -- something we at morning wood like to call street democracy. Protests ramped up on August 10th when Belta released official exit polls placing the incumbent douche at 80% of the vote, and thousands have been arrested.
Following the exits, opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and her lawyer filed a formal complaint with the country’s electoral committee, demanding a recount. Tikhanovskaya then remained without her lawyer at the committee for around seven hours, a perfectly reasonable amount of time to hang out alone with your sworn political enemies. After this, she reportedly told her lawyer she’d made a decision, and fucking vanished until Lithuania’s foreign minister announced on the 11th that she was safe in the neighboring country with her two children.
Svetlana Tikhanovskaya after fleeing to Lithuania
The same day, Tikhanovskaya released a portrait-mode recording explaining her exodus on her husband, blogger and activist Sergei Tikhanovsky’s popular YouTube channel. Tikhanovskaya ran in place of her husband after his candidacy was rejected for crazy dictator reasons. He remains in Belarusian custody following what critics have called a police provocation that took place while he was campaigning for his wife and which led to his arrest in late May. This concludes the most metal paragraph I have ever written.
According to CNN, a separate recording of Tikhanovskaya emerged on a pro-government channel of Telegram, a messaging app that resists government internet shutdowns which is a tactic Belarus has been periodically employing. The recording features the candidate reading off a piece of paper, telling her supporters to stop protesting. Her campaign has said that this and her dramatic exit were forced upon her by authorities holding campaign organizers hostage.
Belarus hasn’t stopped its harassment of opposition leaders since then. On September 7th, Maria Kolesnikova, Anton Rodnenkov, and Ivan Kravstov were reported to have been abducted in the capital Minsk. On September 9th, Rodnenkov and Kravstov reemerged in Kyiv, Ukraine, telling reporters they had been forcibly deported by Belarusian authorities.
Pro-democracy Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern, as well as Ukranian officials reported that Kolesnikova, an apparent fucking badass, figured out the Belarusians’ plan and dove for her passport, tearing it up and forcing Ukrainian border forces to deny her entry. She is reportedly in Belarusian custody. Quick b.t.dubs: for the sake of journalism I should mention that Belarusian officials have their own version of what happened to the trio, but for the sake of me not giving a shit I’m gonna assume that they're too busy cleaning Putin's spunk off their faces to tell the truth and move on.
Speaking of Putin’s spunk, the Russian president has recently doubled down on his support of Lukashenko, with the Kremlin maintaining confidence the mustachioed man-baby will be able to crush the people being mean to him. Putin has reason to be concerned though. The last time a pro-democracy movement kicked up shit somewhere he’d have rathered it didn’t, there was a whole-ass civil war -- remember Euromaidan? Pro-EU protests in 2014 led to the ouster of a pro-Russian leader and a war between Russian-backed militants and Ukrainian forces. The most recent resulting death occurred on September 6th of this year, breaking another ceasefire.
Plus the Kremlin’s been having a rough month with bothersome dissidents. Sergei Tikhanovsky had previously drawn comparisons to Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. If you’ve paid any attention literally at all this past month, you’ll know that Navalny was poisoned on August 20th and evacuated to Berlin, where, since September 7th, he is recovering from a coma.
Alexei Navalny (left) and Vladimir Putin (right)
This is relevant for two reasons. The first is that it gives me another opportunity to dunk on Putin. Not only did Navalny not die, he was poisoned with Novichok, a nerve agent which points directly at the Russian government and which also failed to kill Sergei Skripal, a Russian double agent, in England in 2018. If Putin did order the hit, which experts say is likely, this guy’s got a worse batting average than Jose Altuve -- someone with a comparable history of crimes against humanity.
The second reason is that sketchy shit happens when you make Putin nervous. If Russia is afraid of another Maidan, and if the Kremlin’s confidence in Lukashenko wanes in the face of unabating protest, we could see an increase on the regional sketchy shit metrics, which is good for my comedic repertoire and bad for a lot of more important reasons. Bottom line: pay attention to fucking Belarus.