Anna Nemtsova reports: The gray asphalt streets of Minsk, Belarus, looked too clean and almost totally deserted on the eve of a major opposition rally against the country’s authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko. The words “arrest” and repression” traveled from mouth to mouth. Officials in uniforms and plain clothes grabbed people at their homes, offices and on the streets. By Friday up to 300 people were behind bars. The atmosphere felt as if the capital of Belarus was not in Europe but in North Korea.
Activists went underground before joining the protest on Saturday, where police detained 25 journalists. On Thursday, police had detained 17 activists, supporters of the opposition, and random bystanders. The KGB, the initials still used by the Belarusian security service, blocked cellphones and hacked the social media accounts of concrete opposition activists.
The key leader of the opposition and a veteran dissident, Mikola Statkevich, spoke with The Daily Beast on Friday from his secret underground flat about the chemistry of dictatorship and courage needed by people today not only in Belarus but in the West. The moment has come to stand up for democratic values and against atrocities. [Continue reading…]