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Belarusian KGB Attacks Ice Bucket Challenge

Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarus’s autocratic president, is not amused by the ice bucket challenge, the social media phenomenon raising money for research into ALS — better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. On Aug. 24, a young student challenged the strongman to dump an ice-cold bucket of water over his head via the Russian social networking site ...

Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images
Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images

Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarus's autocratic president, is not amused by the ice bucket challenge, the social media phenomenon raising money for research into ALS -- better known as Lou Gehrig's disease. On Aug. 24, a young student challenged the strongman to dump an ice-cold bucket of water over his head via the Russian social networking site VKontakte and was promptly informed by police to take his challenge down, under pressure from the authorities in Minsk.

The student, Dmitry Dayneko, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Belarus service that he and the other students who shot the video were summoned to the local youth affairs office to discuss it. During a meeting with their parents and school officials, the police accused the boys of going "against the president" by nominating him and threatened them with a fine. They later found out that the KGB in Minsk, which wanted the video removed, had contacted the local authorities.

Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarus’s autocratic president, is not amused by the ice bucket challenge, the social media phenomenon raising money for research into ALS — better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. On Aug. 24, a young student challenged the strongman to dump an ice-cold bucket of water over his head via the Russian social networking site VKontakte and was promptly informed by police to take his challenge down, under pressure from the authorities in Minsk.

The student, Dmitry Dayneko, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Belarus service that he and the other students who shot the video were summoned to the local youth affairs office to discuss it. During a meeting with their parents and school officials, the police accused the boys of going "against the president" by nominating him and threatened them with a fine. They later found out that the KGB in Minsk, which wanted the video removed, had contacted the local authorities.

Opposition website Charter 97 picked up the video four days later, where it caught the authorities’ attention, according to Dayneko.

President since 1994, Lukashenko is wary of all forms of opposition — even actions that seem harmlessly apolitical. In 2011, the Belarusian government unleashed a massive political crackdown in response to protests that erupted in 2010 after the presidential election. The opposition was extremely active on social media and showed its displeasure with the government in creative ways. One popular technique — a so-called "clapping protest" — is exactly how it sounds. Activists gathered and continuously clapped to show their resolve against the regime and to highlight the president’s paranoia of all opposition.

Judging from the KGB and local authorities’ swift action against the ice bucket challenge, it seems that paranoia is alive and well in Minsk.

Reid Standish is an Alfa fellow and Foreign Policy’s special correspondent covering Russia and Eurasia. He was formerly an associate editor. Twitter: @reidstan

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