18 August 2020
Co-chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Valery Borshchev
Source: ‘Can Moscow “save” Lukashenko?,’ Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Русская служба «Голоса Америки»]
In Belarus, protests are continuing unabated for the second week against the rigging of the presidential election, which closed on 9 August, and against the excessive police violence that occurred in the days immediately following the announcement of the election results.
To recap, the current head of state, Aleksandr Lukashenka, was declared winner of the election by a wide margin over his main rival — Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who represented the opposition coalition. Independent observers and the majority of the population believe that the actual results were the precise opposite.
Since the outbreak of the wave of protests, Presidents Vladimir Putin and Aleksandr Lukashenko have already held two telephone conversations. Until then, they had not communicated for a long time as a result of their disagreement over the “deep integration” [of Russia and Belarus] within the framework of the Union State, on which Moscow was insisting. According to Lukashenka, he and Putin reached some agreements as a result of their negotiations, but the nature of these agreements remains a deep secret.
What is the likelihood that Russia will directly intervene in Belarus?
Valery Borshchev, co-chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group, believes the scales are tilting in favour of the protesters against election fraud. According to him, they have a clear advantage, and it is steadily increasing. “The most significant factor is the fact that workers at Belarus’ largest factories have decided to organise strikes,” he argues. “I believe that Lukashenka’s supporters are in a clear minority.”
The human rights defender voiced the hope that Moscow would refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of its neighbour. “At least, I hope it will do so,” Borshchev said, “because the Kremlin must understand where such intervention would lead, how it would affect Russia’s relations with both Belarus and the world community. Doubtless, Russia will help Lukashenka out with financial support, and in other ways. But as for the idea of sending ‘polite little people’ to Belarus, as suggested by Margarita Simonyan (editor-in-chief of the RT television channel), that would not work.”
If Russia did decide to intervene, this would be one of the most disastrous possible solutions, Borshchev concluded.
Translated by Elizabeth Teague