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Little Danil In The Middle

Kick 'em while they're down? Opposition candidate Andrey Sannikau lies on a Minsk street after a clash between protesters and police on December 19. He and his wife, Irina Khalip, are both in custody and a grandmother is looking after their son.
"The New York Times" has published a chilling piece on the lengths to which Belarus's authoritarian president is willing to go to extinguish democratic dreams.

In the middle is 3-year-old Danil Sannikau (aka Sannikov), whose journalist mother, Irina Khalip, and candidate father, Andrey Sannikau, remain incommunicado in a KGB prison, where they face up to 15 years in prison on protest-related charges.

In 16 years as ruler of Belarus, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko has often been called Europe’s last dictator. But the plight of the child, Danil Sannikov, may represent a new tactic in the government’s persecution of the opposition, one that harks back to the Stalin era, when the children of so-called enemies of the people were sent to orphanages after their parents went to the gulag.

The treatment won't surprise many Belarusians. But to the uninitiated, the dissonance is jarring between such persecution and Lukashenka's famously public doting over his youngest son, Nikolay.

Frequent appearances at the president's side of Nikolay, or Kolya for short, have even spawned a joke whose humor looks even darker through the current postelection prism.

In it, one Belarusian asks another how long Lukashenka will be in power ("Dakoly Lukashenka bude pravit Belarusyu?").

"Until Kolya [succeeds him]," comes the answer. ("Da Koly i bude.")

-- Andy Heil