Ukraine-Russia: Belarussian author pleads for Belarus not to be tarred with same brush as dictator

A Belarusian author living in Poland has taken to Twitter to plead with the world not to tar the Belarusian population with the same brush as dictator Alexander Lukashenko, saying ordinary people are not able to speak out openly against Russian attacks on Ukraine because of oppression in the country.

Alina Leonova, who writes science fiction novels, said Belarusians were starting to face discrimination in European countries where they had previously fled from the regime – despite the fact many of them are helping Ukrainian refugees and the Ukrainian fight for freedom.

She pointed out the people of Belarus, which saw months of demonstrations following claims of electoral fraud in the presidential elections 18 months ago, had failed to overthrow their own government.

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"It's interesting that some of you believe that even though we failed to overthrow the regime – to a large extent because of Putin's financial and other support – now we're suddenly capable of stopping not only the Belarusian government, but also armed Russian invaders on our land,” she said.

Law enforcement officers detain a man in Minsk, last year during protests against the Belarusian government. More than 1,000 people are believed to be political prisoners in the country.

Belarus, one of Russia's main allies, has faced international sanctions since the conflict began due to hosting Russian troops on its borders. The country, which holds more than 1,000 political prisoners, according to international estimates, is controlled by Mr Lukashenko. Small-scale protests in Minsk over the Russian attack on Ukraine have seen more people detained.

Ms Leonova said: “Let me remind you that Belarus is an authoritarian country. We haven't chosen this government. We've tried to overthrow it and we failed. We paid with our lives, blood and freedom for the attempt.

"It's interesting to see how in the eyes of many Europeans, we've suddenly turned from victims of the regime to accomplices of its crimes when the same instruments and structures of oppression that have been used against Belarusian people are being thrown against Ukraine.”

Mr Lukashenko, who has been in power since the mid-1990s, claimed victory in the elections, stating he had 80 per cent of the vote. However, opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who lives in exile abroad, considers herself to be the leader of democratic Belarus.

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Ms Leonova said: “We've lived under oppression for almost 30 years. Almost 30 years that Lukashenko has been strengthening his position and eliminating every possible threat to his rule, every public initiative and social structure. Everyone who has any power at all has been carefully selected. There has been constant propaganda and surveillance. We haven't had a real election since 1994. Lukashenko's political opponents have been killed and imprisoned. Every protest ended in brutal crackdown.”

She added: “Now go back and read again what Belarusians are doing to help Ukraine and think again if it's not enough. If you live in a democratic country, you have no right to judge us. You have no idea what it's like. You think you would be brave and protest openly?”

Irina MacLean, spokeswoman for the People’s Consulate of Belarus in Scotland, said: “It feels like the whole world is turning on us, the hate campaign is starting everywhere.

"What Alina says are very valid points. It is victim blaming, because Belarusians are under a regime for so many years that it is a parallel with domestic abuse. People ask why we don’t leave, why we can’t stop it, but we can’t.”

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