Last week, demonstration activity in Eastern Europe continued at low levels. Demonstrations related to the handling of coronavirus took place across the region. Demonstrations against the regime of Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus continued and were largely focused on the death of protester Roman Bondarenko at the hands of men likely linked to the state. Turkish and Greek Cypriots held demonstrations against Turkish interference in Cypriot affairs during the visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Cyprus. The pro-reform candidate won Moldova’s elections, though she will likely face significant challenges in implementing her agenda in a potentially hostile parliament.
Demonstrations in response to new restrictions on daily life as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and frustration with the government’s handling of the pandemic in general, took place in Russia, Greece, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and Cyprus. Most of these demonstrations were peaceful, though demonstrations organized by leftist groups in Greece turned violent after demonstrators resisted police efforts to disperse the demonstrations (Associated Press, 17 November 2020).
In Belarus, demonstrations against the regime of Alexander Lukashenko continued throughout the week across the country. The demonstrations were centered on the memory of Roman Bondarenko, who was killed by masked men likely linked to the Belarusian state. The funeral of Bondarenko on 20 November brought thousands of people onto the streets of Minsk, chanting slogans condemning Bonarenko’s killing (RFE/RL, 20 November 2020). Previously, on 15 November, riot police used stun grenades and rubber bullets against a demonstration attended by tens of thousands in Minsk and arrested around 1,200 people nationwide (RFE/RL, 15 November 2020). The Lukashenko regime has used force against demonstrators since the beginning of the movement to little obvious effect. Lukashenko has managed to outlast the demonstrators thus far due to his support in Moscow, which may be contingent in the long term on him being able to govern the country effectively.
In Cyprus, demonstrations against Turkish influence in Cyprus were held by both Turkish and Greek Cypriots in response to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to the island. President Erdogan visited the island in order to have a picnic in the recently opened town of Varosha, which is claimed by both the ethnically Greek Republic of Cyprus as well as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Many in Cyprus believe that Erdogan intends to influence the island to impose a two-state solution, in coordination with the recently elected Turkish-backed government of Northern Cyprus. Many Turkish Cypriots denounced his visit and Turkish intervention in Cypriot domestic affairs (The Guardian, 15 November 2020). Many Turkish Cypriots are not supportive of deeper ties with increasingly conservative Turkey and want a future for their country in the European Union.
In Moldova, the presidential election was won by former World Bank economist and ex-Prime Minister Maia Sandu, who ran on an anti-corruption program (RFE/RL, 16 November 2020). Sandu defeated the populist and generally pro-Russia Igor Dodon for the presidency and has an ambitious reform plan. However, as her party does not control parliament, she may face challenges implementing her agenda.
In the Donbas region in Ukraine, fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-led separatists remained at very low levels (for more on this, see this recent ACLED piece ). Last week, there were 20 armed clashes, 22 shelling incidents, and no fatalities reported.
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