A rigged presidential election and a violent crackdown on the opposition unleashed deep-rooted popular discontent, which had grown mostly undetected over President Alexander Lukashenko’s 26 uninterrupted years in office. Unprecedentedly, 200.000 Belarusians took to the streets in Minsk and other cities to protest police abuses and demand Lukashenko’s immediate resignation.
Unlike in the past, many erstwhile supporters of the regime from the ranks of teachers, doctors, and state factory employees, apparently disenchanted with the country’s long-serving leader, joined the protests. The gravity of the situation has led many observers to question Lukashenko’s ability to survive the turmoil absent a rescue operation by Belarus’s main ally, Russia. However, there is little love left in the Kremlin for the Belarusian leader, and Moscow is in no hurry to reveal its strategy for handling the unfolding crisis.