The protests in Belarus are continuing into their third week. Police are cracking down, detaining protestors, media, and arresting opposition members. Meanwhile, Russia is standing by with a special police “reserve” force to move into Belarus if asked by the current regime. And the Russian proxy force of Wagner Group mercenaries has already been involved.

The protests erupted following what has been roundly criticized as a fraudulent election on August 9th. Lukashenko, according to his own official vote-counters, carried the slate with 80 percent of the vote. President Alexander Lukashenko, a Soviet-style authoritarian leader, who is frequently called “Europe’s Last Dictator,” has been in power since 1994.

Police at first violently cracked down on the protests that drew about 200,000 people in Minsk. Three people died, hundreds were injured, and 6,700 were arrested. But then Lukashenko let the following protests go on nearly unhindered until Wednesday. 

Yet, that changed. Police detained at least 16 journalists, bringing them to a police station to conduct “identity checks” and to check whether they had “valid accreditation.” But many of the European journalists said that is was a blatant attempt to stop the reporting on the huge demonstrations entering their 19th day. Police confiscated journalists’ telephones and identity papers.

As Belarus’s citizens were waving flags and holding signs reading that Lukashenko must go, security police dispersed the crowds and arrested nearly 200 more people. Lukashenko was shown on Belarus television in a strange video flying over the city of Minsk, wearing black riot gear and brandishing an AK-47. He’s using the tactic of “selective repression” arresting only certain members of the protests to silence calls for his stepping down. 

With the exception of Russia and China, there was worldwide condemnation of the crackdown.

“We believe that under the leadership of President Lukashenko, Belarus will restore political stability and social peace,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said. He added that China “firmly opposes interference in Belarus’ internal affairs by external forces.”

President Putin in Russia is ready to step in and quash the protests. He has said that Belarus President Lukashenko “asked me to set up a certain police reserve” and “I have done so.”