'Tricks, truants and transsexuals': Lukashenko loyalists hit out over Belarus protests

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By Linas Jegelevicius
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko smiles after voting at a polling station during parliamentary elections, in Minsk, Belarus
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko smiles after voting at a polling station during parliamentary elections, in Minsk, Belarus   -  Copyright  Sergei Grits/Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

The views of Belarus' opposition movement are well known: last month's presidential poll was rigged in Alexander Lukashenko's favour, he must step aside and free and fair elections should be held within six months.

But what about supporters of Lukashenko? Why are they backing him and what do they think about the demonstrations?

'Lukashenko cares about Belarusians'

For octogenarian Marina Anatoljevna Demjanina, from Grodno near the Polish border, Lukashenko is a pillar of Belarusian stability.

“Once it is broken, the rest tumbles down disastrously," she told Euronews. "When this happened in Ukraine, a war broke out there and the blood is being shed even now. Is that what our opposition people want?

“We all lived in fear under Stalin, but there was impeccable order and respect for order. Democracies are twisted and doomed. The people are much worse and much more selfish nowadays. Lukashenko does care about the Belarusians.

“It is far from the truth that only the elderly support Lukashenko. My grandsons, both in their twenties, also favour him, so far."

Lukashenko, 66, is the only president Belarus has ever known. Dubbed Europe's last dictator by his critics, he first came to power in 1994, three years after the former Soviet country declared independence.

But his grip on power has been shaken in recent weeks by a burgeoning opposition movement that has orchestrated regular anti-Lukashenko marches.

“Many people who support Lukashenko are frightened to speak out now and some are even fearful for their lives,” Demjanina claimed.

Viktor Mikhailovic Sevokhin, a veteran of the Afghanistan war, is not one of them.

“I am not afraid to admit that I am supporting our president (Lukashenko), despite the fact that he has shown some disrespect to veterans of the Afghanistan war," he said.

"A revolution – and this one ongoing these months in Belarus is no exception – is destructive.

"We may see the calmness and the relative wellbeing we’ve created under Lukashenko in tatters soon."

'Malicious truants'

Protests erupted after the August 9 poll, prompting a violent crackdown. In recent days key members of Belarus' opposition movement have been arrested or forced out of the country.

But Sevokhin has turned the finger of blame towards Lukashenko's critics, claiming they used "dirty tricks" to lure young people to protest.

"They massively, indiscriminately lured them and are still luring them to participate in the opposition rallies," said Sevokhin, who is based in the capital Minsk.

"The political wannabes netted them on social media, where the youth spends hours these days.

"Many of the children have never worked and many of them are malicious truants at their schools. But now they feel very important at the opposition-held rallies."

Nevertheless, Sevokhin admits he questions claims Lukashenko won 80% of the vote in the election and why the police were seemingly violent with the protesters. 

But neither seem to affect his unswerving loyalty.

“Western values are already crippling societies," he continued. "And Lukashenko is the guarantor of our own Belarusian and Christian values. 

"With Belarus being in the West, we will soon see transsexuals marching with their hands clasped in central Minsk.

“The syloviki (law enforcement) and veterans will stand behind “batjka” (Lukashenko's nickname, meaning “dad” diminutively) until our last gasp.” 

Nikolaj Logvin, exiled in the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda but who goes back to Belarus regularly, has a more balanced view. 

“The youth is for change, the elderly for Lukashenko, with some exceptions on both sides,” he said. “Most of them are wary of what happened in Ukraine, which still has not found peace within itself.

"It sad to see so much enmity and hostility across the ranks of a community, a workplace,” he added.

Logvin said his numerous relatives back home couldn’t have any complaints about their lives in Belarus.

“We all have problems. But my relatives had been leading quite a comfortable life until the recent political shake-up. I mean they had jobs, state-paid allowances, stipends, which were rising. Most importantly, we had stability.

“The opposition and the youth have only one goal – to depose the president (Lukashenko). But unfortunately, they haven’t laid out their vision, an economic plan how to move Belarus forward with Lukashenko out."

'Lukashenko's days are numbered'

So how much support does Lukashenko have in the country? 

Belarusian political analyst Alyaksandr Klaskouski told Euronews that officials in the huge state apparatus, as well as the siloviki and their families, support him.

“Also the grandmas who spend their entire evenings watching state TV news," he added. "All in all, Lukashenko supporters must comprise 20-30 per cent, no more.

“So far, the siloviki are behind him, but erosion, however, has begun with some officials quitting their jobs in protest of the clamping down or siding with the opposition.

“I predict his chances of being in power at the new year as 50-50. But no one doubts, and perhaps he himself as well, that his days are numbered. It is just a matter of time until the regime collapses.”