The BBC reports:
Alexander Kozulin, one of two opposition candidates to run against Mr Lukashenko, was jailed for five and a half years at a court in Minsk.
He was convicted of hooliganism [Kozulin is a former university rector] and incitement to mass disorder.
Oddly, Belarus seems the best fit for a European-style democracy in the CIS: it is a 10-million country with a reasonably educated, law-abiding, hard-working and ethnically homogenous population and an urbanized society based on the European nuclear family. It is an improved and downsized version of Russia, as it were: a mini-Russia without the oil but also without poisonous vodka and human degradation.
What is the worst about Lukashenko’s regime? What’s worst about it lies in what’s best about it: Lukashenko’s social policy has allowed most Belarusians to maintain a decent, though quite modest, standard of living; or, at least, to stay away from utter, hopeless poverty. In contrast, post-Communist Russia is a country of heart surgeons making a living as cab drivers, and of engineers selling fruit. A country where — let’s say — a music teacher at a high school doesn’t have to work two more jobs, is appealing to the numerous Russians to whom “culture” and “education” take precedence over “freedom.”
Once a new regime takes over Belarus, it should do its best to preserve these social achievements. In addition, it should resist attempts by Belarusian nationalists to aggressively “Belarussify” their Russophone country. Belarus should not become a third-rate Poland while it has a chance to become a much-improved version of Russia and show the way to its eastern neighbor.
Provided there is a regime change, that is. Belarus does not need a total destruction and reweaving of the social fabric like Iraq; a regime change would do. It could be a limited democracy under EU supervision — limited to prevent Lukashenko from coming back. In keeping with the Belarusian mindset, the new regime would start a slow, step-by-step reform process — not a Russian-style pro-market revolution.
A regime change does not require a war; just a bunch of NATO paratroopers descending on Minsk perhaps.