Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Playing Hockey

A "goon" doing his thing
You know a funny thing happen after all of that yelling and screaming out in front of the All-peoples congress last weekend. I really can’t say for sure but it really seems to me as if Milinkevich and Kozulin really worked in tandem to make a run at Lukashenka and to hit him right where he lives. They did this by playing some old fashioned Hockey, the kind that the Americans used to play before we got all squeamish about all of those missing teeth. In the old days, each team employed a guy who was either called a penalty killer or a “goon”. This was a big strong guy who maybe was not much of a skater or shooter, but was really strong about knocking an opponent to the boards, maybe lacerating a kidney in the process, so that the better skater would be slowed down a bit. In this case, Kozulin was the goon and he went on a suicide mission to both get himself arrested and stir up enough trouble so that the police would start up against him. They of course did and the resulting turmoil was enough to both distract Lukashenka and draw attention to Milinkevich. Like I say, there is no proof of this and the world being what it is, we will never really know the truth, but it certainly seemed that way to me.

The basic events of last weekend were as follows: Lukashenka was the primary speaker at what was named the All-Peoples congress, a collection of Belarusian big shots, all of whom had in common that they were Lukashenka people through and through. There were some 2500 of them at the meeting. Alexander Kozulin however, while supposedly trying to get into the congress, managed to get himself arrested and dragged off to jail. During his arrest, as you can imagine, there was quite an uproar and there were some tensions over at the police station including a police agent attempting to shoot the tires out of a car driven by a journalist/cameraman who was trying to get to where he could send his photos.

Whether or not Lukashenka knew about all of this on the first night of the congress is not known. He most probably had heard about it, but nevertheless went on with his own planned speech which was broadcast ad infinitem on Belarusian TV all that night. This was also the night when both Kozulin and Alexander Milinkevich made their own prerecorded, 15-minute television broadcasts as candidates for president. During his speech, Kozulin basically attacked Lukashenka directly rather than supporting his own platform and basically came off as being about half off his rocker. Milinkevich, though a bit emotional, basically stuck to his story and that night also spoke before a rally at Independence Square of what was most probably about 1000 people (It was cold), though numbers range up to 10,000 depending on the level of propaganda involved.

So this is basically the story everybody read about in the papers. However, on the second day of the congress, the president for some reason did something very curious: For some reason he decided to speak for three more hours and while doing so decided that it was necessary to answer all of Kozulin’s attacks. Now, this is very much in the Soviet style and dotting all of the i’s and crossing all of the t’s is what life was about. But unfortunately for him Lukashenka said some very curious things while speaking that second day. Perhaps he was thinking that he could say what he wanted because he was amongst friends, or perhaps he really felt the need to beat down every single nail that was sticking out against him, but in any case, in the opinion of this writer, the president of the republic of Belarus said a few too many things about himself and his presidency and might just have opened a Pandora’s box of criticism against himself.

The Hanson brothers, from "Slapshot", the best movie about hockey ever
The three things that he said that stick in my mind are his speaking of his family, admitting that he sold armaments under the table and admitted that despite the television coverage that presents him as a sportsman, he indeed does live a sequestered life. Of the family issue, it has long been well known that Lukashenka doesn’t live with his wife. There are never any reports of love affairs though it has become public knowledge that he fathered a child last year with one of the directors in the medical system. There is no “first lady” of Belarus and Lukashenka always shows up stag at any gathering. Nut that he had to speak of is was probably unnecessary as was saying as a apart of the explanation that he was no role model for a family man. In my opinion, even mentioning this is a sign of weakness on his part because the general public of Belarus must deal with its issues of family without any real money to finance one. By explaining that he could not come to any peace with his family and admitting that he must live covertly, it diminishes his claim that all he has done is there for all to see.

But this is really small potatoes. Kozulin accused Lukashenka of selling arms and pocketing the money or even buying for himself an airplane. Lukashenka answered this by saying that though he did sell armaments, there is no airplane and that he gave the money to pay for hockey rinks for children. However, again, that there were secret dealings has been revealed and that the president even admitted to using this “left money”, as it is called here, under-the-table as well. This is breaking the law folks. Clinton was impeached for less. If he did it to save time, well, there are a lot of things that a lot of Belarusians would love to do but can’t because of the time consuming and endless red tape here. If Lukashenka can’t play it straight as a role model for family men, shouldn’t he at least play it straight as a Belarusian business man?

And after all this Lukashenka admitted to living a sequestered life and that he does so out of fear of danger because he has so many enemies. Well, I am sorry, but if you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen. And admitting you are hated is not a good reason to ask to be re-elected. Milinkevich on the other hand has actually made himself appear as a populist. His platform, though a bit empty to a realist’s ears (he never explains how he plans to either implement or pay for it), does in fact touch on many sore spots for local workers. And he says it publicly, actively seeks crowds, is out there doing it while Lukashenka has not bothered to even campaign.
Lukashenka on the ice for a charity game in January of this year
Obviously the president of Belarus feels confident that his nightly television appearances mean he does not to have to, but in fact Milinkevich’s people here in Pinsk has been drawing crowds since this weekend’s mess. And Milinkevich will in fact speak here in Pinsk on the 11th.

So, does all of this mean that we will indeed have a new president come the 19th of March? I don’t know. But one thing I do now is that now, thanks to a rather good hockey combination, we actually have ourselves a real election. There really, really is a second name out there now. And if you look closely over at Kozulin, lip bleeding over there in the penalty box, you can probably make out that he is smiling like anything.

Please read The BEING HAD Times,

More soon…


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