Will the protests bring change to Belarus?

People in Belarus have been staging protests since mid-February. The demonstrations began when Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the country since 1994, passed a decree levying a tax on the unemployed for being 'social parasites'. The country's security forces have cracked down brutally on the protesters and made mass arrests. The fate of Belarus lies not just in the hands of the demonstrators but also in those of Moscow, commentators stress.

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Eesti Päevaleht (EE) /

Belarus won't survive after Lukashenko dies

When the autocrat Lukashenko is dead Belarus will return to Russia's lap, writes author Olev Remsu in Eesti Päevaleht:

“Everyone apart from the nationalists has come to terms with the fact that the state will collapse when Lukashenko dies, because he probably won't be able to establish a North Korean-style monarchy. The territory will quietly slip towards Russia, at first de facto and later on de jure. Lukashenko constructed the Russian-Belarusian double state with Yeltsin when the latter was in power so that he could take the throne himself after Yeltsin's death. Lukashenko can proclaim as loudly as he likes that he will fend off any invasion and will never give up, as Ukraine did after the annexation of Crimea, but his words are meaningless. If there is no mental strength, then there is no state and no nation.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

New Maidan or reconciliation with Putin?

Russia will play a decisive role in how the protests in Minsk develop, Belarusian author Viktor Martinovych concurs in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

“Are we heading for another Maidan like that in Kiev? That is highly unlikely given the large number of police and the decoupling of crime and punishment. The ending remains uncertain, because in this tense situation one party has yet to make a move: Russia. If Lukashenko and Putin reconcile again this time round the situation would be frozen for years and we can expect a display of the next variety of loyalty: 'labour camp loyalty'. However, if Russia decides to 'help' the Belarusian people like it 'helped' the people of Georgia and the people of Ukraine, the country of which I am a citizen may soon be history.”