Lukashenko blames 'nauseating' democracy for Minsk bomb blast

 

Moscow

The last vestiges of the beleaguered opposition in Belarus are prepared for further repression after the country's authoritarian president blamed the "nauseating" force of democracy for a terrorist attack on the capital.

A bomb struck a central Minsk metro station during evening rush hour on 11 April, killing 13 and injuring more than 200 people. Authorities have arrested five people in connection with the blast, including a 25-year-old man who is said to have placed the device on the station.

Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus since 1994 and known as "the last dictator in Europe", has angrily rejected suggestions by Belarusian bloggers that the authorities might have been behind the blast in a country that has little history of terrorism.

According to the Russian website Life News, the main suspect is Dmitry Konovalov, who worked in a factory that produced spare parts for tractors in the city of Vitebsk. Sources in the Belarusian secret services say that Konovalov was a pyrotechnic who had been interested in explosives since a young age, but add that he was paid a large sum of money for setting off the bomb, by unknown figures.

Whatever the truth is behind the bombing, it is clear that the authorities aim to use the situation to crack down on an opposition Mr Lukashenko calls a "fifth column", in the pay of foreign enemies out to destabilise Belarus.

In an address to parliament on Thursday, Mr Lukashenko said that more than anything, an excess of democracy had led to the bomb blast. "Before the elections we became so democratic that it made you and me giddy," he said. "There was so much democracy, it was just nauseating."

The European Union had promised Belarus financial aid if Mr Lukashenko took steps to democratise, and before the December presidential election there was a more relaxed approach, with opposition candidates given some television time.

In the end, international observers said Mr Lukashenko fixed the vote. After an overwhelming win was announced, handing him another five-year term at the helm of a country he has run since 1994, police crushed protestors who took to the streets of Minsk to urge change.

Hundreds of people were arrested, including most opposition candidates who stood against Mr Lukashenko. Many of them remain behind bars, facing prison terms of up to 15 years for organising the protests.

Of all the states to have emerged from the Soviet Union two decades ago, Belarus has perhaps changed least. Almost all the economy is in state hands, the media is tightly controlled, and there is little political debate. Mr Lukashenko is genuinely popular for the political stability he has brought but analysts say that is eroding as the country's economic situation worsens. Opposition politicians say independent polling shows they have the support of around half the country. In his address to parliament, Mr Lukashenko denied Belarus needed political change, and said democracy should be "limited to the square metre around where you are standing."

Alexander Lebedko, recently freed from jail, said the main problem was not a surfeit of democracy but "the most acute lack of democracy".

"The authorities are trying to create the impression of an enemy to get away from the real economic problems," he said yesterday.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor