Anti-government protests will be treated as terrorism – that is the stark warning from Belarus’s security services as the country gears up for a presidential election.
Authorities want to prevent a repeat of recent clashes, sparked by claims that the opposition is being muzzled by Alexander Lukashenko, who is set to win a third term on Sunday. Stepan Soukhorenko, the head of the service, still known by its Soviet initials KGB, had this message for anybody tempted to try a Ukraine-style “Orange Revolution”: “The organisers of this movement are not planning peaceful protests, as they say, but a coup d’etat. They want to use violence to provoke a reaction from the police so as to create chaos and take advantage of the situation to seize power,” he said. Soukhorenko showed footage of an unidentified young man, saying he had received military training at a camp in Georgia, where the “Rose Revolution” ushered in apro-Western leadership. The KGB said his training was linked to the opposition’s alleged plan to detonate explosives in the run-up to the poll. Lukashenko’s detractors brush-off such accusations, saying they have no intention of resorting to violence. Western countries have threatened tough measures if observers declare the election not to have been free and fair.