At least seven people have been killed in a blast that rocked the metro in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, during evening rush hour Monday. More than 100 people have been injured. Witnesses described victims emerging from the Oktyabrskaya metro station covered in blood and ash. Video of the aftermath (below) showed dazed victims as well as rescuers roaming the smoke-filled halls. Sources told Interfax news agency the blast was a “terrorist attack.”
Oktyabrskaya metro station is located close to the residence of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko. Lukashenko was re-elected to a fourth term in December elections that were widely criticized as neither free nor fair. An opposition protest at the results erupted into violence when security services cracked down. Lukashenko has been bearing down on the opposition ever since.
Belarus appears to be in a downward spiral. Things aren’t looking good economically – the government has already allowed a 10 percent slide in the ruble against the dollar, and some bankers expect a further devaluation soon.
The blast received nearly immediate coverage on state-run TV, which raised some eyebrows. After all, dictatorships hate and fear nothing more than uncertainty.
Last month, out of nowhere, Lukashenko compared the situation in Belarus to Chechnya, the troubled republic once home to Russia’s most violent separatist rebels. “If someone in our midst wants Belarus to have a Chechnya in the West – that’s no problem, but it will be more difficult than in Chechnya. I think no one needs that.” He also spoke against the turmoil in the Middle East: “From this Tunisia-ization and Cairo-ization, the world will continue to shudder.”
Witnesses have already begun uploading videos of the blast aftermath on YouTube: