Belarus Struggles to Make Sense of April Terror Attack and Country's Future


The Hotel Minsk lobby is packed with delegations for a conference and a Lufthansa flight crew struggles through the packed lobby.

Shoppers on Nezavisimosti Avenue, the main boulevard in Minsk, stroll arm in arm past Hugo Boss and Addidas shops.

The long row Stalin period buildings are well kept and at night the street is beautifully illuminated.

On the surface it doesn't seem to be an economy on the verge of collapse.

President Lukashenko acknowledges the country's economic difficulties only indirectly when he blames unnamed foreign forces.

He has demanded that once again Belarus's often harassed opposition figures be questioned about external efforts to destabilize the country.

Leadership Troubles

Belarus has been ostracized by the international community again after last December's flawed presidential elections. Some international sanctions have been applied by the international community in an effort to force out Europe's "last dictator."

Opposition supporters by the hundreds were attacked and some brutally beaten during protests following election results. Seven of the nine candidates who dared run against President Lukashenko remain in prison.

Between the Hotel Minsk and the Gum shopping center, the mustard yellow Stalin palace is home to most feared state security services, the KGB.

The round shaped building out back has been dubbed the American jail because of its resemblance to U.S modern architecture.

The government admits to holding as many as 22 of its most ardent challengers inside the "round house." Reports from those freed from the notorious jail tell of opposition leaders beaten so badly that they cannot walk.

Over drinks in a cramped kitchen not a mile away, young Belarusians are discussing the political detention of a friend of theirs who worked for one of the detained presidential candidates.

"How is it possible?" asked one. "He received four years in jail for working for a candidate?"

The pale ice-blue eyes of a young female journalist suddenly became brilliant with anger. "You don't ask how in this country! It just is. That is the problem."

Two other young women both shake their head. One has been lucky enough to get a job in the Gulf and the other has stayed in Minsk.

"It isn't a place to be now," one says. "I feel suffocated here as soon I return."

The president has used the Oktoberskaya bombing to crack down more on independent media.

His ministers have threatened to restrict access to the internet saying that it contributed to the spread of "false" information and theories following the attack.

At the metro station again one week after the attack crowds gathered once again to bring flowers and pay their respects despite the chilly spring wind.

One handmade drawing showed the metro station with 12 doves – the universal symbol of peace -- flying overhead.

But few on the streets of Minsk this past weekend believe that the coming weeks or months will bring any calm.

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