By Dale McFeatters, Scripps Howard News Service
Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenko appears to have reached a loathsome new low in crushing dissent in a country he has made a pariah in Europe.
Belarus held elections on Dec. 19. Lukashenko deemed them an overwhelming victory. Virtually everybody who was not on his payroll deemed them an overwhelming fraud.
Confirmation that they were indeed a fraud came soon after when Lukashenko ordered his secret police, aptly named the KGB after their Soviet fore bearers, to arrest and imprison seven of the nine candidates who ran against him.
Among the most prominent was Andrei Sannikov. He is married to a leading opposition journalist, Irina Khalip. She's in jail too, as is just about everybody else suspected of being part of the opposition or of any kind of human rights activism.
They have a 3-year-old son, Danil, who is now in the care of his grandmother. But, according to The New York Times, the government has warned that it may seize the little boy. The state says it is not satisfied that the grandmother is capable of caring for the child. Two agents even showed up at the boy's school, ostensibly to check up on Danil's welfare.
These thuggish tactics smack of the Soviet Union under Stalin when children were seized and sent off to state orphanages when their parents were shipped off to the gulags. More recently it recalls Argentina under the military dictatorship when the infants and children of those who disappeared into military prisons were adopted by families connected to the regime.
Lukashenko seems undismayed at finding himself in such company.