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Belorussian Dictator Closes Borders


Belorussian dictator Alexander Lukashenko on a tour of the border guard station Divin, Kobrin District, Brest Oblast on 1 June, 2018. (AFP)

Belorussia has announced that it will be temporarily restricting the exit from the country and called the step a corona protective measure. But opposition fears a new crackdown.

From December 21, Belorusians and foreigners with a residence permit will no longer be allowed to leave the country through checkpoints at streets and train stations, according to a government resolution published on Thursday. Checkpoints at river ports should also be affected by the regulation.

According to a government announcement, an exit should only be permitted in exceptional cases - for example in the event of a serious illness or death of a relative abroad. In addition, diplomats and civil service employees, among others, are said to be exempt from the restrictions.

The independent observers stated that the announcement is directed to foreign journalists and the employees of the non-governmental organisations. After that deadline, the secret police may target them with intimidation, fabricated charges that can result in sentencing to prison.

After the border are closed the regime may target foreign journalists
with fabricated charges that can result in prison

In the eyes of the civil rights activist Svetlana Tichanovskaya, ruler Alexander Lukashenko only uses the corona virus as a pretext: "Covid has not bothered him so far," wrote Ms. Tichanovskaya on Twitter. "Now oppressed Belarusians cannot flee and apply for asylum abroad." The opposition Telegram channel called the regime's move a "new iron curtain". The independent news portal recalled that Mr. Lukashenko had described a border closure due to the pandemic as "hollow" in March.

Belarus has been in a serious domestic political crisis since the presidential election on August 9th. Mr. Lukashenko, who was criticized as the "last dictator in Europe", had himself declared the winner with 80.1 per cent of the vote. The opposition, however, sees Ms. Tichanovskaya as the real winner. For months, the democracy movement has been calling for Mr. Lukashenko's resignation, an end to police violence against peaceful demonstrators, the release of all political prisoners and new elections.

The European Union no longer recognizes Lukashenko as president.


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