The slogans for the massive demonstrations on 13 September across Belarus, including one of 100,000 in Minsk, included “We won’t let him [neo-Stalinist president Alexander Lukashenko] sell the country”. Police attacked demonstrators, and even the official government figure said 774 had been arrested.
Incidents caught on camera show that the police are now, for the first time, willing to openly use violence against female protesters – but also women fighting back successfully.
The protests are not fading. Strikes have also continued to spread. The workers’ committee at the huge Beluruskali potash mine, which produces a fifth of the world’s potash, has announced an indefinite strike demanding the annulment of the stolen election of 9 August and release of all political prisoners.
The regime has victimised and in some cases prosecuted other groups of strikers.
The embattled Lukashenko has held lengthy talks with Vladimir Putin, telling him “a friend is in trouble”. Most reporters reckon that Putin is not a fan of Lukashenko, but willing to help him because he does not want to see pro-democracy protests defeat a government in a country close to and linked with Russia.
Russia will offer Belarus a $1.5bn loan. Putin has rejected Lukashenko’s public call for Russian military intervention, but says he has prepared a contingent of special police to send if things get worse. This week Russia will send paratroopers for ten days of military exercises entitled “Slavic Brotherhood”, and there will be similar military drills monthly over the next year.
Many, including in Belarus’ protest movement, speculate that Putin is pushing the weakened Lukashenko to accept some form of soft annexation by Russia. On paper the two countries already form a “union state” with common institutions, but only on paper.
Socialists and labour movement activists in Britain should step up solidarity with the protests in Belarus, and with the working-class and socialist forces there in particular. We should insist on Belarus’ right to self-determination, against Russian intervention or interference.
• Online solidarity campaign organised by trade union news website LabourStart
• John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn and others have put forward a parliamentary Early Day Motion supporting the protests. Please ask your MP to sign it
• The Ukraine Solidarity Campaign is publishing regular updates from Belarus here.