Last week, demonstrations across Eastern Europe continued at very low levels. Demonstrations against the regime of Alexander Lukashenko continued in Belarus despite state repression as the European Union applied sanctions to members of Belarus’ elite. In Moldova, the reformist presidential candidate won the first round of elections against populist President Igor Dodon, setting the stage for increased social tension surrounding these elections in coming weeks. In Kosovo, President Hashim Thaci resigned after being indicted for war crimes committed during the 1998-1999 war. In Northern Cyprus, the newly elected pro-Turkey president consolidated power by appointing a temporary prime minister following the postponement of party elections for that post. This has increased tensions surrounding his recent close victory in presidential elections.
In Belarus, demonstrations against the state continued despite the crackdown on demonstrators (Amnesty International, 3 November 2020). Doctors, pensioners, and students demonstrated throughout last week to demand Lukashenko’s resignation, new elections, and the release of political prisoners and arrested demonstrators (RFE/RL, 2 November 2020; RFE/RL, 7 November 2020). Meanwhile, the European Union imposed sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, on Alexander Lukashenko, his son Viktar, and 13 high-ranking officials responsible for the falsification of the 9 August election results and ongoing repression (RFE/RL, 6 November 2020).
In Moldova, reformist former Education Minister Maia Sandu won the first round of the presidential elections against incumbent populist President Igor Dodon (Balkan Insight, 2 November 2020). The next round of elections are likely to increase social tension in the country, particularly related to the bussing and potential bribing of voters from the Russian-backed separatist region of Transnistria into Moldova. Tensions remained high along the de facto Moldovan-Transnistrian border last week as veterans of the Transnistria War blocked Transnistrian voters’ entrance to Moldovan territory (Ziarul de Gardă, 1 November 2020).
In Kosovo, President Hashim Thaci resigned after being indicted for war crimes during the 1998-1999 war at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague. Thaci was one of the leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during the conflict. KLA veterans announced demonstrations but cancelled them due to a spike in coronavirus cases in the country (Balkan Insight, 5 November 2020). This news was welcomed by families of victims in Kosovo, and is regarded as a step forward in Kosovo-Serbia relations. Kosovo and Serbia recently re-started negotiations on improving diplomatic and economic relations after a two-year long halt (Balkan Insight, 6 November 2020).
In Northern Cyprus, the two leading candidates for the post of prime minister withdrew from consideration leading the government to postpone ruling National Unity Party (UBP) party-elections of the new prime minister. This withdrawal is rumored to have been influenced by Turkey, which did not approve of the leading candidates (Detay Kibris, 11 November 2020). The new pro-Turkey President Ersin Tatar appointed a new leader to the ruling UBP party to replace him as temporary Prime Minister, sparking demonstrations and resignations both from within the party and from the opposition (LGC News, 5 November 2020).
In the Donbas region in Ukraine, fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-led separatists remained at very low levels. There were 29 armed clashes, 28 shelling incidents and two fatalities reported.
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