Lukašenka warns opponents against staging street protests

Aliaksandr Lukašenka warned on Monday that he would not let his opponents stage mass anti-government street protests and said that people were free to talk politics “in their kitchen.”

Mr. Lukašenka made the warning while meeting with Valieryj Vakuĺčyk, head of the Committee for State Security (KGB), three days after the arrest of Siarhiej Cichanoŭski, a popular blogger whose videos on YouTube have highlighted local problems and galvanized popular discontent with the authorities.

Using the term for anti-government unrest that was made popular during pro-European protests in Ukraine, Mr. Lukašenka claimed that some of his opponents sought to stage a “mini-Maidan ahead of the presidential election or on the election day.” “That’s what they planned,” he said, according to the presidential press office. “I want to warn at this meeting you and everyone who will hear us, all of these ‘maidan morons’ that there will be no maidans in Belarus.”

“We know from where the winds are blowing toward our land. Unfortunately, not from the direction that we would like them to. But we are ready for any winds,” he said in a vague remark apparently alleging that there may be foreign influence behind his opponents’ plans for street protests.

He noted that the government had learned to “fight these winds and hurricanes.” “We did not know how to fight back then and had no sovereign and independent state,” he said. “We were always divided into parts, had pieces [of our territory] annexed to one state or other. You know that we were practically partitioned before the previous war. That’s why one cannot let this happen today.”

The head of state said that people were free to express their opinion at designated venues. “As far as I know, there are six locations in Minsk for that,” he said. “Our job is controlling that, so that you don’t step over the bounds. There are six locations in Minsk,  go there and have a debate. But the Committee for State Security together with the police should by no means allow a violation of the law.”

“People should go themselves and debate,” he said. “If they want to do so in their kitchen, be my guest. But they should not bother other people. We must observe order. There must be order in the country. We must not let various sorts of crews and gangs of criminals roam the country with their sleeves rolled up: people may think that Gestapo is back, war has started. We must not let this happen. And I won’t. I have already told the military that I will be fighting alone if necessary. We have enough people in uniform who are able to defend the country though. They realize that their children will have to live in this country. Our children, your children, and not only them, but we will too. We are not dying yet.”