Can the Belarusian earthquake hit Russia and Europe?

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Belarusians voted Sunday, August 9 to elect their president after a campaign of arrests of opponents and protesters. The authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko faces the most serious challenge since coming to power in 1994.

Irina, 52, has long carefully avoided all political activity in Belarus, like the vast majority of her compatriots. And then this bank worker came out of her lethargy a bit before summer.

The arrest of his candidate, the banker Viktor Babariko, and of all those who threatened the re-election of the authoritarian Alexander Lukashenko, "scandalized" her. "I have the impression that our president lives in a sort of parallel reality," she said.

Irina has come out to support the candidate Svetlana Tikhanovsky, who now carried the opposition's hopes on the presidential election of this year. This unexpected mother of two gathered tens of thousands of supporters in Minsk, the capital, but also in the big provincial towns, who had never participated in meetings before. "The engagement of the population around this election is unheard of under the Lukashenko era," notes political scientist Artyom Schreibman.

In Belarus, the re-election of the outgoing President Alexander Lukashenko for his sixth term, scheduled for August 9, 2020, should have taken place without many surprises. After 26 years in power, the man seemed to have full control throughout the electoral process and seemed to be sure to win again with a triumphant score. But a grain of sand derailed the well-oiled mechanism of her authoritarian regime: a last-minute candidate, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya

The authorization to compete given to this 30-year-old housewife, considered to be completely harmless and incapable of overshadowing Minsk's strongman, proved to be a fatal mistake by a deeply misogynistic president. In the space of a few weeks, the near-unknown candidate embodied the massive rejection of Lukashenko and became the symbol of the desire for a change of a large part of the Belarusian population.

Why has the so-expected scenario of Lukashenko's peaceful re-election failed? What does the unexpected success of Tikhanovskaia and the unprecedented scale of the challenges to the profound changes in Belarusian society tell us? And what implications will these events have at the regional level?

The president's regime seems to have aged badly

The regular holding of elections is one of those rituals that are common to observe even in authoritarian countries like Belarus, where the opposition is marginalized, where the political competition impossible within the framework of official institutions and the idea of a renewed government is simply unthinkable. The authoritarian leaders usually comply with the preparations of non-competitive elections whose results are known in advance. However, they know that this exercise can be perilous.

Elected in 1994 against his reckless rival, former President Vyacheslav Kebitch, in the first (and last to date) truly democratic and transparent presidential election, Lukashenko made sure not to make the same mistake. He has never let go of control of the electoral process, assisted by the faithful Lidia Ermochina, irremovable president of the Central Election Commission since 1996. The duo had already tested several means of minimizing the risks inherent in each re-election (in 2001, 2006, 2010, 2015).

The essential of these means can be classified into four broad categories: ousting the most serious competitors; monitoring media coverage; use of the “administrative resources” and the falsification of results; the use of intimidation and force if necessary. All these methods were used in 2020.

In the first months of 2020, the three competitors deemed potentially dangerous (Viktor Babariko, Sergei Tikhanovskiï, Valeriï Tsepkalo) were dismissed, the first two being imprisoned and the third forced to flee the country. The four officially registered candidates (Andrei Dmitriev, Anna Kanopatskaya, Sergei Tcheretchen and Svetlana Tikhanovskaya) were only allowed two hours of air in the national media each. Meanwhile, the activities of the president received ample media coverage – which was overwhelmingly positive, of course. His traditional address to members of the Parliament and the nation, initially scheduled for mid-April, had been rescheduled for August 4, five days before the election. This was supplemented by a violent crackdown on journalists and a total shutdown of the Internet on election day.


The number of places officially authorized for candidates' meetings with voters had been drastically reduced. At the same time, some candidates had reported intimidation of their collaborators, and numerous arbitrary arrests had been reported throughout the campaign.

The possibilities of supervising the electoral process were greatly reduced: the only foreign observation mission was the one delegated to the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly (the counter-model of the OSCE missions), and the access of independent observers at polling stations was deliberately made very difficult. Besides, the early voting procedure, regularly denounced as a major tool for forgery, was launched five days before the official date of August 9.

On election night, in anticipation of protests, an imposing repressive apparatus was mobilized in the capital. The outburst of violence by law enforcement officials against protesters far exceeded that of 2010.

However, despite all these means used to avoid media coverage and dismiss any attempt to challenge the results, the election exposed the growing unpopularity of the president and the weariness of a large part of the population ready to mobilize to support a complete unknown as soon as it embodies the idea of change.

What Tikhanovskaya's success reveals

Who is this Svetlana Tikhanovskaïa who challenged the "last dictator of Europe" and now proclaims herself victorious, from Lithuania where she took refuge? It is important to clarify that this is not a politician representing an opposition party. Her involvement in the campaign was improvised because it was following the refusal by the authorities to register the candidacy of her husband, a popular blogger and pugnacious detractor of Lukashenko, imprisoned since June, that she s' is a candidate.

Its brilliant and original campaign on social media and alternative media (such as the news portal or the Belarusian-language channel Belsat, funded by the EU and hosted in Poland) was carried out thanks to the combined efforts of the teams of the three candidates excluded from the presidential race. Their appeal to the three other registered candidates and their pledge to the opposition parties to withdraw in favor of a single candidacy against Lukashenko was not followed up.

Moreover, the attempt to nominate a single candidate representing all opposition parties and movements in the primaries organized in February 2020 had already failed. In the end, it was not the ties to the historic opposition, but the inventiveness and use of new technologies in a country more connected than one might think that made the difference with previous campaigns.

The originality of Tikhanovskaya’s approach was to run for president not to keep the power for herself, but to organize a new presidential election later, this time fully transparent**. His campaign was articulated not around socio-economic issues but demands for political freedom and the rule of law.**

This positioning strongly resonated with the desire of a growing part of Belarusian society to see the country embark on the path of political, social, and economic modernization, and above all to put an end to an increasingly authoritarian regime, more outdated and disconnected from society than ever before.

Lukashenko's popularity has long been linked to his ability to guarantee socio-economic stability, particularly valued by generations who had resented the disappearance of the USSR and were nostalgic for the Soviet model. The percentage of this elderly and predominantly rural electorate has gradually declined, to the benefit of the new, younger, and urban generations. Tikhanovskaya and her allies Veronika Tsepkalo (the wife of the second rejected candidate, Valériï Tsepkalo), and Maria Kolesnikova (the campaign leader of the ousted third candidate, Viktor Babariko), described by Lukashenko as “three poor girls who understand nothing”, have perfectly captured and embodied the profound changes that Belarusian society has undergone in a quarter of a century.

Their demand to restore dignity to the Belarusian people has found a much wider echo than the empty promises of salary increases the president has made, including among his traditional electorate. His clumsy handling of the coronavirus crisis only underscored the archaic nature of his power.

Beyond this basic explanation, Lukashenko is also paying today for two major errors: the announcement of the official results giving it a highly improbable score of 80% of the votes, and the excessive use of violence to suppress the protest in the days following the election. In the space of a week, the entire Belarusian population, known until then apolitical, mobilized through well-attended demonstrations despite the repression, a general strike and multiple street actions (solidarity chains women dressed in white and carrying flowers, horns for motorists, etc.) who took the regime off guard. Civil society, whose absence the Belarusian opposition had long lamented, has revealed itself and the world.

An unexpected geopolitical challenge

The electoral deadline was to take place in an international context rather than favorable to Lukashenko. If the freedoms given by the 1994 Constitution during the multiple parodies of electoral consultations that his government organized have long earned it strong criticism from Western countries, accompanied by a series of sanctions, the situation had calmed down these last years. His return to favor with the international community was linked to his skillful mediation position during the Ukrainian crisis, and to a few gestures of openness towards the political opposition which allowed the lifting of European sanctions and the initiation of some cooperation projects with the EU. His re-election in 2015 did not elicit any negative reaction from the EU despite the Soviet score of 83%. The visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Minsk in early 2020 also hinted at the warming of relations with the United States.

On the other hand, the recurring tensions around trade and energy issues with Moscow, Minsk's reluctance on the advancement of the unified state project and a certain mistrust of Belarusian attempts to reconcile with the West did not call not fundamentally in question the priority given to cooperation with Russia. Russians have remained unmoved by the Belarusian president’s verbal provocations during his election campaign and the trumped-up Wagner affair, which raised suspicion of possible Russian intervention to destabilize Lukashenko’s regime.

Thus, the main regional players appeared relatively neutral ahead of the election. This caution was completely understandable given the dramatic consequences of the Ukrainian crisis. The EU sought above all to avoid provoking Russia so as not to give it the pretext to intervene militarily, but also not to jeopardize the path towards normalization which is looming in Russian-European relations. No one had an interest in the emergence of a new hotbed of instability in Europe.

This new "revolution of dignity" has launched an unexpected challenge as much to the EU, absorbed in the management of the coronavirus crisis, and the Brexit, as to Russia, plunged into the economic crisis following the fall in prices of the oil.

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European neutrality became difficult to sustain in the aftermath of the election because of the regime’s excessive violence as well as the scale and duration of the protests. EU authorities responded first with a call to end the violence and recount the votes, followed by threats of sanctions against the regime and a proposal for mediation.

The demand by the leaders of many Western countries, primarily Poland and the Baltic States, to hold new elections has prompted Lukashenko to turn around and return to the classic Western plot scenario. Thus, he suddenly forgot his insinuations about a threat of destabilization from Russia, launched in the middle of the election campaign with the Wagner affair, and called on Vladimir Putin for help. The latter promised on August 16 that Moscow “will respect its commitments” within the framework of the Russia-Belarus Unified State Treaty, and if necessary, within the framework of the CSTO, which implies the possibility of dispatch of armed forces.

The situation in Belarus represents a real dilemma for the Kremlin: on the one hand, the Russian leadership is tired of Lukashenko's turnarounds and the arrival of a new person at the head of the Belarusian state does not involve many risks. The country has been moving away politically from Russian orbit since 2014 but remains economically dependent on Russia.

On the other hand, a regime change under pressure from the streets in Belarus could give unprecedented impetus to the rise of political protests in Russia on the eve of a regional election which promises to be very tense; and, symbolically, the fall of Lukashenko would presage the inexorable end of Putin. Finally, neither the Belarusian population nor the Russian population favors the scenario of military intervention. Would Putin be ready to take such a decision, with very serious geopolitical and domestic consequences, in the context of economic recession?

What certificate is needed for admission to universities in Belarus?

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Submission of documents to universities in Belarus starts on July 25, and one of the main documents, along with certificates of central heating and a certificate, is a medical certificate of health. Upon admission to higher educational institutions of Belarus, applicants must submit medical certificates to the admissions offices, which are especially drawn up during the summer.

To get a certificate, you need to ask the clinic for a referral of form 1 zdr / u-10. Most applicants for admission must pass:

  • general blood analysis;
  • general urine analysis;
  • fluorography;
  • ECG.

Also, the doctor may prescribe other examinations. Tests for reference must be taken in the morning, in the afternoon you can go through all the doctors - as a rule, it takes very little time.

Besides, as part of the preparation of a certificate for admission to universities, it is necessary to undergo an examination by an orthopedist (surgeon), neurologist, ophthalmologist, otorhinolaryngologic, dentist and, for girls, a gynecologist. Examination by doctors can also be additionally prescribed by a therapist.

In adult clinics, separate hours are allocated for the preparation of a certificate during the day - they can be found at the reception. The first step in obtaining a certificate in an adult clinic is to go to a pre - doctor's office, in a nursery - to a teenage doctor or district therapist.

The certificate for admission to universities must contain the following items:

  • Health care institution
  • Stamp and signature opposite the conclusion of each doctor
  • All desired programs (groups of specialties) in the column "Suitable for training ..."
  • Date of issue of the document
  • Stamp and signature of the head physician or his deputy
  • Be sure to double-check that the certificate contains everything you need: then you will not face problems at the admissions office. You can also study an example of a certificate in the corresponding resolution of the Ministry of - Education--.

Traffic will be limited in the center of Minsk in the evening

Transport traffic in Minsk will be corrected due to the rehearsal of festive events for the Day of the Paratrooper, the relevant information is posted on the website of the Ministry of Defense of Belarus.

The 90th anniversary of the Airborne Forces, the successor of which is the Special Operations Forces, is celebrated in Belarus on August 2. On the holiday, festive events will be organized for Minsk dwellers the day before with the participation of MTR servicemen.

According to the ministry, one of the planned rehearsals will take place on Sunday, July 26, from 19:00 to 22:00 near the Sports Palace.

"The movement of equipment is scheduled from 18:00 on the route: Kolodischi settlement - Moscow Ring Road - Pobediteley Avenue - Palace of Sports. Return of equipment - the same route. The movement of motor transport will be limited" it was reported.

It is also noted that all planned events in the capital will be held from ten o'clock in the morning to 14:00.

"The program includes a helicopter landing on the ground and in the water area of ​​the Svisloch River, demonstration classes in hand-to-hand combat, and a drawing of combat episodes. Mechanics-drivers of armored personnel carriers will demonstrate" a waltz of cars on the water, "the Ministry of Defense explained.

An exhibition of equipment, weapons, uniforms will also be organized. The traffic police recommend road users to increase their vigilance and comply with traffic rules.

War of thieves in law: what is happening in the criminal world of Belarus?

Recently, representatives of the criminal environment have become more active in Belarus and this may be happening against the background of a general aggravation of the socio-economic and political situation in connection with the coronavirus pandemic, both in our country and in the world as a whole. In this sense, organized criminals resemble predatory hyenas that smell blood and are always activated in a difficult historical period.

Therefore, the recent public appeal of the so-called thief in law from Minsk, nicknamed Pashtet, "It's time to restore order in this country!" although it should be taken with a certain amount of irony, it should not be lightly ignored.

You should also take seriously the recent protest of criminals in Lida, where on July 9 SOBR suppressed a gang meeting, and later in one of the residential neighborhoods, there was a clash with the use of cold weapons by supporters of the thief in law Alexander Kushnerov.

Where do the legs of the Belarusian underworld come from?

The domestic criminal world is under the constant repressive influence of law enforcement agencies, and various criminal authorities, unlike their "colleagues" in several neighboring states, have not been able to integrate into the ruling circles, the business elite and do not have any serious influence on the situation in the country.

Nevertheless, the criminal underground in Belarus still exists and is trying not only to survive in difficult conditions but also to organize the criminal activity, to recruit new adherents into its ranks, to collect funds in the thieves' fund ("common fund"), to form an agenda in places of deprivation of liberty and create positions in the shadow sector of the economy.

The system of governing the underworld, its hierarchy, where the highest position is occupied by the so-called thieves in law, whose power is maintained through a kind of vertical of "overseers" and "supporters", is of great importance

After the collapse of the USSR, the top of the criminals retained not only the old "concepts" (rules of conduct in the criminal world), but also contacts with each other, and the Russian-speaking "lads" seeks to coordinate efforts, despite the different geopolitical orientations of the states that emerged on the site of the former Soviet republics. That is, we are talking about the fact that the Belarusian criminal environment is closely connected with similar circles in the post-Soviet space, primarily the Russian Federation, and many processes taking place in Belarus are echoes of events in the post-Soviet criminal world.

Therefore, the criminal war that unfolded in Russia between the clans of thieves-in-law Tariel Oniani (Taro) and Aslan Usoyan (Ded Hasan), which led to the murder of the latter in 2013, could not but have a Belarusian projection. Two years before his death, in 2011, Ded Hasan accepted into the thieves' "family" a citizen of Belarus, a former killer of the Morozov criminal group, Alexander Kushnerov, nicknamed Sasha Kushner or Sasha Coat. The newly minted thief in law, who was replaced by 15 years of imprisonment back in the 1990s with an exceptional punishment for double murder, began to actively place his "watchers" and tried to infuse fresh blood into the half-dead bandit underground.

At the same time, at about the same time, Aslan Usoyan's opponents at a "gathering" in the UAE also "crowned" their proteges in Belarus. This is how they appeared in our country. Naturally, an irreconcilable struggle for influence in the criminal world and directly in prisons developed between Kushner and the Quartet, which continues to this day.

For Belarus, as for a country free of organized crime, the activation of bandits is a wake-up call that requires prompt adoption of appropriate measures.

OnlyFans, the "Patreon of porn" that gives creators control in exchange for 20% of the proceeds

OnlyFans is one of those social phenomena that have been going on for years and that explode and emerge as topics of conversation. The social network in which you pay monthly to access exclusive photos and videos has been running for four years, but today we can read articles like this because there are contestants on Belarusian television programs that publish their raunchy content there.

Can you say that OnlyFans is the Patreon of porn? You can, although not all people who use this social network are dedicated to teaching cheek. But it is as if we said that Pornhub is also a documentary website because it recently published one (about a lesbian club in Los Angeles). OnlyFans non-pornographic exceptions include athletes (fitness sector), nutritionists, and models who publish their content there. A rather rare practice, being able to use Patreon, which is much better known than OnlyFans and more economically profitable for creators, as we will see in a while.

What is exactly OnlyFans and what is its impact in Belarus?

It is a social network that emerged in 2016 as a copy of Patreon, online since 2013. According to their figures, they have 8 million users and 70,000 creators. Its foundation is the same as that of Patreon: in exchange for a subscription that usually goes from about 5 to 20 euros per month but that can go up to 46 euros, you access photos and videos that are only published there. You can also chat with the author of the content and, something exclusive to OF, give you a tip in exchange for content specially designed for you.

But the main difference is in the type of content you can see. In Patreon, there are rarely nudes, unless they can be justified as art or artistic photography. At OnlyFans it is very rare to see people dressed. Or standing up. Porn abounds with OnlyFans. Above all, there are gonzo (single scenes without the slightest plot) and solo games that last between 5 and 10 minutes. Professional but above all amateur content, both real (people whose main occupation is not porno) and fake (people who say that it is their first scene and it turns out that they have their directory on Xvideos with 175 clips).

“Onlyfans did not start out being exclusively for the use of sex workers (performers, webcamers, escorts, etc.), but it has emerged as such because it had a lot of traffic and has allowed our profiles,” explains Maryia Federova, actress, and director of porn movies.

But the platform has not only captivated many porn professionals who saw that the most popular social networks censored their claims (right now it can only be shown on Twitter). OnlyFans is also attracting the attention of non-professional porn divisions. Amateurs who want to try something manageable where they have control. Couples used to test themselves that when they see a porno, and they mutter that they could do better. Young people who produce packs (collections of photos and intimate videos) that they host at MEGA and whose download links send to guys who have Twitter accounts of the type @ fsfair683, who pay 10, 20, 30 euros for those packs, and which are very bad business –for those who photograph themselves– if they want to control their image on the Internet because as soon as @ fsfair683 has the photos, the whole Internet has them.

Why does it work so well with porn?

The quickest answer is because it allows it. Contrary to Patreon, where you can only post photos or videos if you can justify that it is some kind of art that cannot be understood with dressed people, in OnlyFans you can upload all the porn you want while the content is created by you. Owning what is filmed is the real key to making OnlyFans work. The same happens with Patreon, with Amazon's self-publishing service or, ultimately, with any digital platform that makes it easier for authors to collect the majority percentage for their works.

In the case of OnlyFans, 80% of the proceeds from subscriptions and tips are for the author. The remaining 20% is kept by OnlyFans, which is a fairly high commission considering that OF does not promote its authors (who use Twitter for it) and that its immediate non-porn competitor, Patreon, only charges 5%, expenses for separate card payments. (Here we should remember what we said above about why fitness models and instructors use OnlyFans to produce non-pornographic content knowing that they could upload the same content to Patreon and pay less commission).

Naturally, being the one who shoots the scene and stars in it pushes you to do it yourself. The filming set is usually the own house and the cast, if we are not talking about solo scenes, tends to be completed with other actors who use OF and even with friends outside of porn who do not mind being filmed if then their faces are blurred in post-production.

Ivan Smirnov, a porn actor, explains that for a shoot you need very sophisticated material, while for OF it is enough with a tripod and a phone with good resolution. To this technology, we only have to add “well-chosen shots (something that the actors know well) and a quick encounter. A shoot requires many hours of work, in OF it can be less than one”.

Smirnov acknowledges that OnlyFans changed his life. When OF came out, he did not use this platform, while many fellow professionals took advantage of the minutes before filming scenes to record clips and upload them to the networks to promote themselves, a practice that caused directors to start discarding those actors who did not respected their confidentiality contracts and valued those with a more discreet profile, such as Smirnov. “But at the point where I was scarcely one of those who did not use it and also seeing the number of new actors there are today, I started using it and It was a benefit. "

Right now, Smirnov uses OnlyFans and Justforfans (same rationale as OF, but with some content open). "Obviously, it takes a lot of dedication to record, edit, and hang the videos, but it's very profitable still."

A different experience than entering the usual web

“The user is usually tempted to see more personal content. Some of the performers upload exclusive material and the possibility of contacting the person directly makes it very tempting to be a follower”, explains Daria Petrovna, whose profile in OF charges 13.73 euros a month to its subscribers.

For the actress and director, who pays in OF is quite different from who visits or even pays in a more classic video portal. “He mainly values what you do, since he pays to see your creations. She knows that content can be more personal, not as produced as a scene could be.”

For Ivan, “many people prefer amateur porn because they think that x hamster cinema is very elaborate and not real, neither the chemistry between the actors nor the stories that are told. In OF the encounters are sporadic and natural. The chemistry you see among those people is not forced like on a shoot, "says Smirnov. According to the actor, professional filming is for those who prefer scenes where the image of the actors, the costumes, or the location are taken care of.

In Belarus, OnlyFans is not very well known, but it must be taken into account that most of the most popular faces of Belarusian porn have been there since the end of last year - there are exceptions, Petrovna started in late 2017 on the platform. If OF will get those who visit free pages to start paying up to € 46 a month for exclusive content - that is the amount that actress Maryia Federova asks for - we will only know in time.