Archive for the ‘A.Lukashenka’ Category

On April 2, 1996 Yeltsin and Lukashenka meet in Moscow and agree to sign a Russo-Belarusian Union treaty entitled “On deepening integration and comprehensive drawing together.” The treaty provides for the creation of an Interparliamentary Congress with 50 parliamentarians from each side, an executive body called the Integration Committee and a Union Court. According to president Lukashenka, a common parliament and constitution could follow later. The name of the new union (SSR in Russian) bears a striking resemblance with the name of the old USSR (SSSR).


Lukashenka, Yeltsin and the Patriarch of Moscow Alexij II after the signing of the Union treaty

For Lukashenka the treaty is a major success; he hopes for remission of the Belarusian debt for oil and gas and for the creation of a common economic area with equal prices. This is another example of how Lukashenka tries to solve the problems caused by his own economic policies at Russia’s expense.

Lukashenka’s argumentation comparing the new Russo-Belarusian union with the European Union is not seen as very convincing, since neither the economic potential nor the territory concerned can be compared. This union – according to the opposition – looks more like one country surrendering its sovereignty to another one, voluntarily giving up its own independence.

The spring of 1996 is marked by a number of rallies and demonstrations in protest against the president’s policies. On March 24, April 2, 26 and May 31 tens of thousands of people take to the streets of Minsk to voice their protest against the president and defend their country’s independence. The largest rally is the one on April 26, entitled “Carnobyl’ski sliach” (“The Chernobyl path”) and held in remembrance of the Chernobyl disaster ten years ago. It is the largest meeting in Belarus since the country became independent in 1991. The main organiser of the rally was the BNF, supported by the other democratic parties, among others by the Civic Action Party.

The authorities dissolve the peaceful meeting by force. Riot police forces use truncheons and tear gas. Several hundred demonstrators are arrested and beaten by the police and members of the presidential security troops. However, not only demonstrators are arrested and beaten, but also passers-by, especially young people. Harsh measures are also taken against journalists and photographers of independent or foreign papers. Eye witnesses describe the behaviour of the police as very brutal. The official media and Belarusian state television cover the events in a very biased way: the Belarusian TV correspondent refers to the demonstrators as “drunken students, idle pensioners and other loafers” and compares them to “wild animals” who had forgotten they were human beings.

Zianon Pazniak

Zianon Pazniak – the leader of the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF)

Photo Christoph P�schner, LAIF

At the same time official sources more and more often mention the possibility of outlawing the BNF, especially after a speech held by BNF leader Zianon Pazniak on Ukrainian TV. Pazniak and BNF press speaker Siarhiej Naumcyk are forced to leave the country. Pazniak flees to Prague and later to Warsaw, London and eventually to the USA. Two other BNF members, Prof. Jury Chadyka and Viachyslau Siuchyk, who were arrested at the “Charnobyl’ski sliach” demonstration, go on a hunger strike in prison to protest against their arrest. Seventeen Ukrainians from the Ukrainian nationalist parties “Rukh” and “UNA-UNSO”, including one deputy, are also arrested at the same demonstration. Despite all protest they are kept in prison for several weeks, seven of them have still not been released. You can read all current speeches of Z. Pazniak in his webpage

The events in Minsk do not pass without attention, even sources from Moscow comment on the brutality of the measures taken by Lukashenka. During his election campaign President Yeltsin criticises Lukashenka’s methods. Lukashenka, by the way, remained the only president of a CIS country who did not openly support Yeltsin’s reelection. Rumours say that the campaign of the communist candidate Zyuganov was financed with the help of Belarusian money.

On July 1996 Zianon Pazniak and Siarhiej Naumcyk, who have been in exile since March, apply for political asylum in the USA. This is the first case of dissenters from CIS states seeking asylum in the West.


On May 14, 1995 the planned referendum and the first parliamentary elections in Belarus since the dissolution of the USSR are held. The elections are a failure. Only 120 of the 260 seats (majority vote) are assigned, because the required turnout of 50% is not reached in most constituencies (among them – Minsk). It has to be added that a few months before the elections, the president had prevented a planned amendment of the electoral law (which would have introduced a mixed system – 50% of parliamentary seats assigned by majority voting, 50% by proportional representation). So the old majority system remained unchanged, which leaves smaller parties practically without any chance to get into parliament. The press and TV had done their best to convince the people to take part in the referendum initiated by the president. The authorities’ attitude towards the elections, however, is clearly described by Lukashenka’s comment that “no matter what deputies you elect, they all lie anyway.”

The outcome of the referendum was the following: 77.6% voted for the president to be able to dissolve parliament, if parliament violates the constitution. 82.4% voted for an economic union with Russia, 83.1% voted for Russian as second official language. The re-introduction of the old flag and national crest was supported by 75%. These figures have shown that the majority of Belarusians have given in to the president’s influence and propaganda. A few days prior to the elections Belarusian state TV had broadcast a “documentary” called “Nianavis’c” (“Hate”) which openly compared members of the opposition to the Nazis. Extracts from speeches held by leading politicians of the opposition were shown together with library pictures of Belarusian Nazi collaborators during the period of occupation by the Germans. This smear campaign against dissidents calls back to mind the times of the worst Soviet propaganda, when the people were manipulated through false information or lack of information. In this light the outcome of the 1995 elections becomes comprehensible…

SWAT team beats up Belarusian Parliament members

At this time an original Parliament has realized that the country is undergoing presidentiial coup d’etat. The vote of inconfidence was passed to president and opposition parliament locked themselves in Parliament building refusing to leave it. Lukashenka’s fate was hanging by the threat. Several big Russian politicians including Chernomyrdin arrived to Minsk. They talked some of the opposition to back down. For the rest of the opposition locked in Parliament building Lukashenka sent a SWAT special forces team (apparently of non-Belarusian origin). The special forces has beaten severely and dragged opposition Parliament members out of the Parliament. This was an official announcement of Lukashenka absolute power rein. to Minsk to diffuse the confrontation.

The new state flag based on old Soviet Byelorussian SSR flag

As far as foreign policy is concerned, Lukashenka’s main goal is to bring Belarus closer to Russia. The official media increasingly propagate slogans about a revival of the old USSR and about the “unity of the Slavic peoples”. All military bases of strategic significance have been let to the Russian army for 25 years. Belarus’s Western border, the border with Poland, is now guarded by Belarusian and Russian border guards together. More and more leading positions in the Belarusian army are given to Russians. Many important Belarusian firms are taken over by Russian companies, such as the oil-processing factories situated along the pipelines from Russia to Europe. In return for such favors, Lukashenka is granted deferment of part of the Belarusian debt in Moscow.

Criticism and political dissidents are not accepted by the president. He expects the media to “work constructively” “Unconstructive” newspapers he closes down for “twisting facts.” His opponents he condemns as enemies who try to sabotage his work. In August 1995, for example, a strike by the workers of the Minsk metro is crushed by the authorities, dozens of workers are fired. The independent trade unions are outlawed at the same time.

As the parliamentary by-elections (in those constituencies where the turnout had been lower than 50%) move closer, the president and his supporters step up their criticism of the Constitutional Court, which had declared several presidential decrees unconstitutional (such as the decree banning the metro workers union and lifting deputies’ parliamentary immunity). Lukasenka had ignored these Supreme Court decisions. He declares that the Constitutional Court is not entitled to defy the President’s decrees, since the President is elected by the people, whereas the Constitution Court judges a appointed by parliament. He even questions the Constitutional Court as an institution.

Again, the elections are neglected by the official media. Lukashenka declares that if participation turns out too low again and if the necessary number of deputies are again not elected, he intends to introduce direct presidential rule.

These comments fit in very well with the sensational interview which Lukashenka gives the German newspaper “Handelsblatt” in December 1995 and in which he expresses his view of Adolph Hitler’s policies in the 30s. He says, for example:

“…At the time Germany was raised from the ruins thanks to a firm hand. Not everything that was connected to a certain Adolph Hitler in Germany was bad. Remember his rule in Germany. The German order had grown over centuries. Under Hitler this process reached its culmination. This is perfectly in line with our understanding of a presidential republic and of the role of its president. I want to emphasize that one man cannot be all black or all white. There are positive sides as well. Germany was once built up out of the ruins with the help of a strong presidential force. Germany was raised thanks to this strong force, thanks to the fact that the whole nation united around its leader. Today we are going through a similar period, when we have to unite around one person or group of people in order to survive, hold out and get back on our feet again…”

The following day Lukasenka’s spokesman Zamiatalin tries to deny what the president has said.

Despite everything, the elections take place…

… Not a single candidate of the Belarusian Popular Front makes it into parliament. In those constituencies where they had a chance of being elected, “strange” things happen: either participation is one or two hundred votes too low for the result to be recognised as valid, or a huge number of ballots turn up with all candidates crossed out.

In January 1996 the first session of the new parliament (consisting of 199 instead of 250 deputies) take place. The leader of the Agrarian Party, Siamion Sharecki (Sharetsky), is elected speaker of parliament. The parliament is made up of the following party groups: the pro-presidential “Zhoda” (“Consensus”), the communist party, the Agrarian Party, the Civil Action Party (“Hramadzianskaje dziejannie”) of former National Bank chairman Stanislau Bahdankievic and the Social Democratic group. The remaining deputies are independent.

The first free presidential elections, which marked the most important moment in the recent political history of Belarus, took place in June and July 1994. Prime Minister Viacheslau Kiebich, who could rely on the support of the Supreme Soviet and large parts of the media, was seen as the most likely winner. But things took a different turn. The result of the elections was a major surprise not only for the West: the second ballot on July 10, 1994 showed the populist Aliaksandr Lukashenka as the clear winner with an overwhelming majority of 81.7% of the vote. Kiebich resigned his office as prime minister. The leader of the Belarusian Popular Front BNF, Zianon Pazniak, and former President of Parliament Stanislau Shushkievich were both defeated at the first ballot with 12.9% and 9.9% respectively.

Who is Aliaksandr Lukashenka?


Aliaksandr Lukashenka was born on August 30, 1954 in Kopys, a small village in the Viciebsk (Vitebsk) district. He studied at the Pedagogical College in Mahiliou and at the Belarusian Agricultural Academy. From 1975 to 1977 he was a political instructor for the KGB border troops in Brest. After that he worked as leading official in various collective farms, since 1987 as director of the “Horodiec” farm in the Mahiliow district.Lukashenka likes to boast that he was the only member of parliament who in December 1991 voted against the creation of the CIS and dissolution of the Soviet Union. In reality, however, he did not take part in that vote.Shortly before he became president, speaking to the Russian Duma in Moscow, he called on Russia, Ukraine and Belarus to reunite and form a new Slavic union. For anyone who knows the way Lukashenka has been fighting and oppressing the national culture and the history of Belarusians, ignoring the Belarusian language and defending a position which is rather a Russian imperialist one, persecuting human rights advocates and journalists, is not difficult to believe that – should the opportunity arise to revive a sort of USSR (or Russian Empire, …) – this man would try to become the leader of such a state.While he kissed a lot of political figures during his career (shown here kissing Eltsin, Patriarch of Moscow Alexi II and Slobodan Miloshevic), it seems that Putin has avoided kissing Lukashenka.

Lukashenka’s popularity is partly due to his reputation as a fighter against corruption. As chairman of the parliamentary committee investigating corruption he was the key figure behind the doubtful accusations which led to the fall of President of Parliament Shushkievich.

In his election campaign Lukashenka also emphasized his struggle against corruption and made numerous populist promises. The independent Russian newspaper “Moskovskie novosti” (“Moscow news”) compared Lukashenka with the Russian nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

As time passes, Lukashenka’s rule becomes increasingly dictatorial. In November 94 he creates what he calls the “presidential vertical line” – the heads of six regions and 118 districts of the republic who are directly subordinate to the president. The presidential representatives are delegated virtually all the powers of the local authorities. The elected bodies – the local soviets – are thus practically deprived of power and replaced by the president.

From December 25 – 30, 1994 numerous newspapers have to be issued with “blank areas”. These blanks replace a speech given in parliament by the deputy Antoncyk on the topic of corruption within the president’s team. At the time this speech is debated in parliament. Independent newspapers which dare to publish the text of the speech are banned from using the state printing works.

In the first months of his presidency Lukasenka repeatedly proves his negative attitude towards Belarusian history, culture and language and towards a nationally oriented policy. He declares, for example, that Belarusian is a “poor” language unable to express any “great things” and that there are only two “great” languages in the world: Russian and English. With such statements he puts the nationally oriented intelligentsia against himself.

On April 11, 1995 Lukashenka speaks in parliament, proposing to call a referendum in order to replace the national symbols – the white-red-white flag and the national crest “Pahonia” – by the old, Soviet symbols (without hammer and sickle), to give Russian the status of official language (along with Belarusian), to pursue economic integration with Russia and to give the president the power to dissolve parliament. The democratic opposition accuses Lukashenka of violating the constitution, 18 deputies – members of the BNF party and other parties of the democratic opposition – declare a hunger strike and remain in the parliament building overnight in protest against the president’s plans. During the night of April 11th to 12th these 18 deputies are attacked, beaten up and driven out of the building by about 200 masked men belonging to the presidential bodyguard.