Recently, Belarus’s main opposition leader Sergei Tikhanovsky was sentenced to 18 years in prison for organizing demonstrations ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Several others have been sentenced to long prison terms for the same as Sergei Tikhanovsky. Sergei Tikhanovsky was the foremost counter -candidate of the sitting Belarusian dictator Aleksandr Lukashenko until he was arrested and also sentenced to prison. After the arrest, his wife Svetlana Tikhanovskaya took over the leadership of the opposition. All Belarusian opposition leaders are either imprisoned as well as asylum in other countries.
Gag the opposition
The recipe for squatting the opposition follows the same pattern in Belarusland as well as in Russia. System-critical newspapers are banned, the most dangerous challengers to the current board are imprisoned and the authorities have full control of the judicial system. Who learns from whom, Putin or Lukashenko is not good to know. They probably learn from each other.
Belarus’s oldest newspaper, Nasja Niva, was recently also banned. The newspaper was branded extremist. A number of journalists are imprisoned in Belarus. The imprisonment of Sergei Tikhanovsky as one of the strongest leaders of the opposition in the country and the imprisonment of journalists is really one and the same thing. Imprisonment is used to stop them and to scare others from saying what they think and writing what they want.
Who is most dangerous a prisoner or a free Sergei Tikhanovsky?
Sergei Tikhanovsky could quickly become an even bigger threat to Lukashenko than if he were a free man. The opposition lacked a leading figure, until his wife took over this role before the election. Therefore, he can be a more dangerous man in prison than outside. The history books are full of examples of totalitarian regimes trying to gag their opposition by using prison. Most famous is probably South Africa when Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for many years. The result was that Mandela became a symbol, the same can happen with Sergei Tikhanovsky.
Belarusian relations with Europe outside Russia’s sphere are rather poor. This clearly does not worry Lukashenko, whose only goal is to maintain his own power. What the rest of Europe thinks and does does not matter what is called Europe’s last dictator. Nevertheless, it is important to put pressure on Belarus for all countries that have a reasonably functioning democracy.
The demand must be to release Sergei Tikhanovsky along with other imprisoned opposition figures and journalists.