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File photo of Viktor Babaryko File photo of Viktor Babaryko  (AFP or licensors)

Belarusian authorities detain president’s main rival

Authorities in Belarus detain President Alexander Lukashenko's main rival in the August 9 presidential election. The arrest of Viktor Babaryko comes amid growing protests against the current head-of-state.

By Stefan J. Bos

Officials said Babaryko, a 56-year-old former banker, had been detained on suspicion of financial crimes. Babaryko's 30-year-old son Eduard, who is running his election campaign, was also arrested on suspicion of tax evasion.

But critics questioned the allegations at a time of growing public discontent against current President Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since 1994.

Lukashenko is seeking a six-term during the upcoming vote, which international observers fear will be tainted by irregularities.

The United States has, in the past, called Belarus, “Europe’s last dictatorship.” And there has been concern about reported secret executions and other abuses in the former Soviet nation.

But recently, diplomats expressed some hope that political life had improved. Belarus also played a role in internationally backed peace talks on Russia’s military role in Ukraine. 

Harsh crackdown

However, in recent weeks, there has been a renewed crackdown on dissent. President Lukashenko's main rival Babaryko isn't the only critic detained in the past weeks. 

Several opposition figures have been arrested during a harsh police crackdown on protests, footage seen by Worthy News showed. Hundreds took to the streets in the capital Minsk to protest against recent arrests of government critics.

Among others under pressure is even a 17-year old student, Uladz Rymasheuski, who went off-script during a high school graduation ceremony. 

"I also would like to say that we sincerely hope that on August 9, there will be much longed-for-change in our beloved country," he told the audience.

Uladz also expressed concern about a detained video activist. The teenager received threats following his speech as well as support from people who offered to pay for lawyers to help him.

However, with President Lukashenko's main rival now behind bars, it remains unclear when and if a change will happen any time soon in Belarus.

19 June 2020, 16:39