14 April 2021, Wednesday, 14:06
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Valer Karbalevich: Lukashenka Received Blows From Two Sides At Once

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Valer Karbalevich: Lukashenka Received Blows From Two Sides At Once
VALER KARBALEVICH

Clearly, he did not expect a protest to come from there.

A political miracle happened in Belarus - Lukashenka ceased to be president. True, this relates only to the president of the National Olympic Committee (NOC) post, political observer Valer Karbalevich writes for the Svobodnye Novosti website.

It is a rare occurrence for Lukashenka to give up any, even symbolic, positions. Something very unusual was about to happen. Moreover, after leaving the post of head of the NOC, Lukashenka lost his favorite toy. This post was closely related to his image of the father of all Belarusian athletes. Moreover, he turned down offers to remain the honorary president of the NOC.

The explanation for this miracle is quite simple. The fact is that Lukashenka received a blow from two sides at once. First, many prominent athletes have protested against the regime's violence. And this came as a complete surprise to the authorities. After all, athletes in Belarus are a special caste, fondled by the state. And from there, Lukashenka clearly did not expect a protest. That is why his reaction was so painful, they say, “traitors”. This also explains the brutal persecution of the protesting athletes.

And the official Minsk received the second blow from international sports organizations. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has adopted sanctions against the NOC of Belarus for persecuting athletes for political reasons. It banned the entire NOC Executive Committee, led by Lukashenka, from attending the Tokyo Olympics, and cut off any financial support for this organization.

The world championships in ice hockey and modern pentathlon in Belarus have also been canceled.

Here is another important nuance. The NOC is formally a public organization. This is required by the rules and the very spirit of the international Olympic movement. And the fact that the president of the country is at the same time the president of the NOC does not quite comply with these rules. As well as the fact that sports federations (also public organizations) are headed by high-ranking officials, usually ministers and heads of departments. But until now, the IOC has turned a blind eye to such a discrepancy. However, now that the conflict has erupted, there have been complaints of politically motivated harassment of athletes, and the problem has surfaced.

Moreover, there is a threat of new sanctions. At the last meeting of the IOC Executive Committee, its head Thomas Bach said that they are following the situation around the elections to the National Olympic Committee of Belarus, and will make appropriate decisions in the future. And the British newspaper Inside the Games reported that if the IOC executive committee concludes that political repressions against athletes will continue, the NOC of Belarus may be removed from the Olympic movement. As a result, Belarusian athletes will have to compete under the neutral Olympic flag.

In December, Aliaksandr Lukashenka called the IOC a “gang” and threatened to sue it. However, now he changed his mind and decided to give in. Resignation from the post of President of the NOC is a gesture towards the IOC, an attempt to pacify it. There is also a second concession. Aliaksandr Lukashenka promised that the new president of the National Olympic Committee, Viktar Lukashenka, will be relieved of his post as assistant to the president for national security. That is, he will cease to be a government official. So the IOC would have no questions.

For all the external bravado, they say, we do not care what international sports officials decide there, in fact, this blow from the IOC turned out to be quite painful for Lukashenka. For him, the sporting success of Belarus on the world stage is an important element of his personal image. After all, he presents himself as the most athletic president in the world. And this is the image of the patron of sports Lukashenka would like to keep. In such a situation, new IOC sanctions would be highly undesirable. Hence the desire to appease the International Olympic Committee.

However, will the IOC be satisfied with these concessions? Here, from the side of the official Minsk, the logic formulated by the hero of one movie works: “I have no trump cards, but I have something to make a move with”.

In order to completely neutralize the IOC's claims, it would be necessary not only to stop repressions against athletes, but also to re-elect the entire composition of the NOC Executive Committee, which, I recall, is under sanctions. However, its composition has changed little. In addition, from the point of view of the IOC, the figure of Viktar Lukashenka is also quite toxic. Primarily because of the surname. The infamous Dzmitry Baskau, chairman of the Ice Hockey Federation, also remained in the NOC Executive Committee. But the International Ice Hockey Federation is investigating his role in political repression.

But Lukashenka does not want to go further along the path of concessions. He is afraid to show weakness. They say, someone might think that he is frightened, that he is vulnerable to international pressure. So he decided: let the IOC be content with half-hearted gestures for now,” says Valer Karbalevich.