September 23 marks one year since dictator Lukashenka refused to step down after losing the August 2020 presidential election in Belarus and instead held a secret “inauguration” in the presence of a few dozen confidants. This stealthy attempt to formalize his illegal and undemocratic power grab only exposed and solidified his illegitimacy and provoked an unprecedented pushback from the democratic forces in Belarus and the international community. Over the past year, Lukashenka retained a semblance of power and influence in the country only thanks to a terror campaign against civil society perpetrated by his security forces and generous Russian support. In just one year, the regime has labeled as destructive and shut down over a hundred non-governmental organizations, ranging from independent media to environmental non-profits, and forced thousands of people to flee the country and move their businesses abroad. Human rights organizations list over 670 people as political prisoners and more than 4,000 as under politically motivated criminal investigations. Lukashenka’s reckless and desperate actions affected the international community as well, from the forced landing of Ryanair flight 737-800 to the refugee crisis unfolding on the Belarus-E.U. border. To avoid another forceful expression of the people’s will, the dictator introduced a bill to postpone local elections and the subsequent election into the National Assembly’s upper chamber, which his pocket parliament is set to pass in the second reading.
Despite its illegitimacy and questionable international recognition status, the regime in Minsk continues to receive funding and support from international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. This financial stream provides the regime with resources it can use to continue to brutally oppress the people of Belarus and undermines the effort of the international community and the United States in particular. We urge the Biden-Harris Administration to formally de-recognize the Lukashenka regime and press the IMF and other international organizations to do the same.