Monday, April 11, 2011

Explosion in Minsk subway kills at least 11 (updated)

An explosion has occurred in the Oktyabrskaya subway station in Minsk, Belarus, where two of Minsk's subway lines intersect, 100 meters away from the government's main building, during rush hour. RT reports that at least 11 people have been killed and 103 have been injured.

NEW: According to RT: "Local police are not allowing journalists near the place of the incident, cameras have been banned and cell phones are being confiscated if used. No filming whatsoever is being allowed, and law enforcement is acting ruthlessly, a newspaper reporter informed from Minsk."

According to the Telegraph, the US has called Belarus "Europe's last dictatorship". Last December, Belarus' president Lukashenko was given a fourth term in office, fueling mass protests. The government responded with a violent crackdown on protesters, which led to sanctions by the West. The Washington Post observes that this blast occurs on background of a potential Belarus-Russia economic deal, and that a subsequent crackdown on the opposition could further distance Belarus from the West, playing into Russian interests.
Ever since a violent police crackdown on protesters last December, the government of Belarus has been imposing increasing tough measures on its opponents. Up to 50 people face trial and years in prison for participating in the protest, while some of their lawyers have been disbarred and advocacy organizations warned or shut down.
The explosion took place just as Lukashenko is facing the prospect of bargaining with Moscow for a $2.7 billion loan to help keep his struggling economy afloat. In the past week his government has been making friendlier gestures toward the West than at any time since December, presumably to strengthen his negotiating position with Russia.
A severe crackdown now in the wake of the explosion would run the risk of cutting him off from the West altogether—to Russia’s benefit.
In his book 2048, Dan Passig claims it's only a matter of time before Russia and the US have another confrontation (and that this has everything to do with Israel). According to Passig, countries like Belarus who border Western and Eastern Europe will begin to emerge at the forefront of this struggle.

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