Belarus Leader Blames Excess of Democracy for Bombing

Published: April 21, 2011

MOSCOW — The president of Belarus, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, said Thursday that he knew exactly what led to a deadly bombing at a subway station in the capital, Minsk, last week.

Gennady Semyonov/BelTA, via Reuters

Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, gave a national address on Thursday.

“Above all, the government is to blame for this,” Mr. Lukashenko said in his annual state of the nation address. “We have had so much so-called democracy that it has made us nauseated.”

The remarks further underscored fears that Mr. Lukashenko would use the bombing last Monday, which killed 13 people and wounded more than 200, to broaden his already extensive control over Belarus, a former Soviet republic.

The bombing has shaken confidence in Mr. Lukashenko, who in nearly 17 years as president has emboldened the security services and quashed dissent — but has also, until now, guaranteed relative security and stability in exchange for loyalty.

Speaking to lawmakers, he said that Belarus had “over-democratized” ahead of a presidential election last December, adding, “I said then that we would give full freedom and democracy, but that this would have consequences.”

Before the election, Mr. Lukashenko did take the unusual step of allowing opposition candidates to campaign freely and debate one another on television. But he quickly reversed course, fabricating the election results to give himself 80 percent of the vote, according to international observers, and ordering the police to violently quash a postelection protest against the fraud.

Hundreds were arrested, and several dozen people now face up to 15 years in prison for organizing the protest.

Mr. Lukashenko has suggested that members of Belarus’s opposition and perhaps Western governments were behind the subway attack, but he said Thursday that while his security services had rounded up a few low-ranking suspects, including the person accused of being the bomber, they had yet to identify the mastermind.

Given the situation, he said, Belarus could ill afford to weaken the current “vertical authority.” He said that he was not opposed to democracy per se, but that it should be “limited to a square meter around where you stand.”

“Brush shoulders with another person,” he said, “and that is where your democracy ends.”