Friday, March 24, 2006

Blogging Till It Hurts

With the news that Minsk riot police have broken up the demonstration on October Square, it looks as though the protest may be over - at least for now.

Lukashenko's assault is really one on European democracy, and in particular the ideals and policies of the European Union, which has opened to absorb many of the former Soviet "satellite" states. Timothy Garton Ash, writing in the Guardian, has some suggestions as to how people in the West, and especially in Europe, can help the Belarus protests.
Here, without for a moment confusing wishes with reality, I have an answer. There are many reasons for the different paths followed by Belarus's western and eastern neighbours since the end of the cold war - the Polish way and the Russian way - but one of the most fundamental is this: that the Poles wanted to join the EU and the EU made it clear the Poles could join if they met certain standards of democracy, the rule of law, market economy and so forth. Now it's the Poles - and Slovaks, Czechs, Lithuanians and other recently self-liberated Europeans - who, as new members of the EU, are saying we must do more to sustain the cause of freedom in places such as Belarus. Besides direct support for independent media, civil society and the democratic opposition, and pressuring the country's leaders, the most important thing we can do is to offer that long-term European perspective.

They are right. This is the corner of Belarus's reality we can directly and legitimately change. So if you do give a toss about Belarus, and you are a citizen of the EU, go blog your government till it hurts.
Meanwhile, Russia has blamed the OSCE for tensions in Belarus. Russia's President Putin has already sent open congratulations to Lukashenko. The EU and US are to impose sanctions against Belarus, though the precise nature of these hasn't yet been specified.
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