A high-profile political analyst and strategist who has advised presidential candidates in the U.S., Russia and Ukraine has been detained in Belarus ahead of a tense election.
«I have been arrested,» Vitali Shkliarov, a Harvard University fellow, said on Telegram without providing further details.
The 44-year-old was born in the Belarussian city of Gomel but is based in Washington DC.
He has worked on both Barack Obama’s and Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaigns. He told Russian opposition television channel Dozhd that he had arrived in Belarus in early July.
Citing the country’s security service, Belarussian television said Shkliarov had advised Sergei Tikhanovsky, one of strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko’s would-be rivals, who is now in jail.
The arrest of Tikhanovsky, a popular 41-year-old YouTube blogger, prevented him from submitting his own presidential bid in time.
In a surprise move, his wife Svetlana stepped in and was allowed to register as a candidate. In a matter of weeks 37-year-old Tikhanovskaya has gone from an unknown to Lukashenko’s strongest rival.
Shkliarov was detained after the KGB security service announced it had arrested 33 Russian mercenaries allegedly plotting to destabilize the country ahead of the presidential election.
KGB chief Valery Vakulchik told Lukashenko the detained men were members of the Wagner group, a shadowy private military firm reportedly controlled by an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, which promotes Moscow’s interests in Ukraine, Syria and Libya.
The arrests came less than two weeks before Belarus holds a tense presidential election on Aug. 9, in which Lukashenko is seeking a sixth term, as public discontent builds over his policies.
Belarus Plant Workers Go on Strike After Contested Vote
Workers at a major steel plant in Belarus have gone on strike over the country’s contentious presidential election that they described as “unfair,” Belarusian media reported Monday.
Belarus’ longtime leader Alexander Lukashenko claimed an overwhelming victory after Sunday’s vote, while his main challenger said it had been rigged and called on him to give up power. Major clashes broke out between pro-opposition protesters and law enforcement officials in Minsk and other cities after the vote.
Belarusian Steel Works (BMZ) in the southeastern region of Gomel partially suspended operations Monday, the tut.by news outlet reported.
The Nexta Telegram channel published photographs of workers in BMZ uniforms standing around at one of the plant’s units and reported that the workers called on supporters from other factories to join them in striking.
Last month, Nexta shared a photograph of a written warning by BMZ workers that they would strike from Aug. 10-12 “in the event of unfair elections.”
“We want to LIVE and not exist!!!” they wrote in the notice circulated on July 24.
The Sputnik Belarus news website reported, citing unnamed sources, that at least two BMZ units have suspended work.
The plant employs around 11,000 people and is one of the five largest companies in Belarus in terms of output.
The workers went back to work a few hours after the partial suspension, opting to send a letter to Minsk urging to hold fair elections, Russia’s Dozhd television channel reported. Their employer was reported to have vowed not to punish or fire them.