Belarus: dubious prison dialogue
Alexander Lukashenka visited detained representatives of the opposition in jail for discussions on Sunday. According to media reports, he tried to persuade them of the merits of his constitutional reform. Two of the participants were released the next day, but a demonstration taking place at the same time was brutally quashed. Was the meeting the start of a dialogue or a publicity stunt?
The edifice of lies is collapsing
Irina Chalip, Belarus correspondent of Novaya Gazeta, sees the meeting in a positive light:
“This is the first sign of surrender. First, Lukashenka is under pressure from outside his country, from both the East and West - albeit in different ways and with different goals. Nobody wants an ally like that. Secondly, the lies aren't working anymore: neither those that maintain that Lukashenka won, nor that those behind bars are criminals, nor that he is supported by the popular masses while hordes of good-for-nothings whose support has been bought take to the streets. ... In the smartphone era lying is becoming increasingly difficult. It's better to be honest and go to prison.”
Alexander Ryklin, editor-in-chief of Ezhednevny zhurnal, on the other hand, is appalled by Lukashenka's brazenness:
“The only reaction this literally unprecedented format of a meeting between the 'head of state' and parts of the opposition can provoke is disgust. Using hostages for PR purposes is monstrous. We don't know whether these people voluntarily agreed to participate in a round table with the usurper in such extreme circumstances, or if they were forced to do so. Lukashenka's plan - or that of his Moscow trustees - is clear: he's trying to show his people and the world that he's willing to negotiate and change.”