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The Daily Vertical: Belarus Enters Uncharted Territory (Transcript)


The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

Belarus is entering uncharted territory.

It's entering uncharted territory because a traditionally passive public is finding its voice.

It's entering uncharted territory because street protests against an unpopular unemployment tax are being driven not by the opposition, but by ordinary Belarusians angry about declining living standards.

And it is entering uncharted territory because Alyaksandr Lukashenka seems uncharacteristically confused by the protests and unsure about how to respond to them.

He tried placating the demonstrators by suspending the tax. And when that didn't work he tried arresting some opposition leaders.

Yet still the protests continue to grow.

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And Belarus is not only entering uncharted territory, it's also entering very dangerous territory as well.

It is entering very dangerous territory because this challenge from the Belarusian street comes at a time of heightened tension between Lukashenka and his erstwhile patrons in Moscow.

It's entering dangerous territory because Vladimir Putin's regime is watching attentively as this Belarusian drama unfolds.

The Kremlin is watching, it's waiting, and it's calculating how it can exploit the crisis and turn it to Moscow's advantage.

Putin's strategists are no doubt working out the contingency plans as we speak.

So Belarus's protesters actually have two battles ahead of them.

One, of course, is against the monolith of the Lukashenka regime.

But another is against the even bigger monolith in the Kremlin.

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