Russian liberals were optimistic, when the protest movement in Belarus threatened to topple Aleksander Lukashenko and viewed it as a template for Russia. The optimism faded as Lukashenko held on to power, with the threat of Russian intervention on his behalf hovering like a Sword of Damocles. Perhaps, the most bitter reality Russian liberals had to swallow was the reality that most of their compatriots preferred Lukashenko to the alternatives, and viewed the protesters as lawbreakers, who threatened to plunge the country into anarchy. Economist Ivan Lyubimov, a senior research officer at the Gaidar Institute of Economic Policy tried to provide an answer. In a column for Novayagazeta.ru, titled "Do You Want It to Be Like in Minsk", He argued that Russians have excessive respect for the written law and for the men in uniform that enforce it. They fail to realize that when laws are legislated to fortify the authorities and empower special interests this is not law. Russians should have learned from the tragic pages in their history that sometimes laws are legislated to spread terror rather than to protect the public's interest.
Lyubimov's article follows below:
Ivan Lyubimov (Source: Novayagazeta.ru)
"On August 9, 2020, presidential elections were held in Belarus, the results of which caused outrage in a significant part of the Belarusian society. This indignation was expressed in street protests on a record scale (for this country), to which the Belarusian security forces responded with unprecedented and absolutely disproportionate cruelty. The Internet was filled with disgusting scenes of violence by the security forces against the predominantly peacefully protesting citizens.
"Despite the huge number of facts indicating large-scale and blatant cases of human rights violations in Belarus, a significant percentage of Russians voice their support for Alexander Lukashenko. According to the "Levada Center", 57% of the polled Russians would like to see Lukashenko as president of Belarus. Lukashenko’s main rival in the elections, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, had to appeal to Russia's citizens, asking them not to listen to the propaganda aimed at discrediting the protesters.
"The support of many Russians for a regime that treats its citizens with obvious cruelty requires some reflection.
"Of course, there are many reasons for this situation. Some see a threat to the economic model that they favor in Lukashenko's possible departure from office. Some care about the preservation or even reinforcement of the Kremlin’s influence in Belarus, and such people see protests as a prologue to unwanted changes.
"But many Russians simply believe that the protesters were the first to break the law by participating in rallies, that were uncoordinated with the authorities.
"According to this point of view, citizens are obliged to follow the rules, primarily guided by the established practice of law enforcement. Therefore, some Russian observers are ready to issue an indulgence to the Belarusian security forces for the bullying and violence to the protesters, that followed the rallies.
"This idea incorporates serious misconceptions. And the point is not only that the protesters' detentions were accompanied by large-scale and grave violations of the existing law by the security forces. The point is that law and enforcement are only technical tools designed to solve specific problems. Another issue, that is more important: for whom, for what purpose and in what manner were the laws and the corresponding law enforcement practice created.
"Justice and the protection of society’s interests are frequently not the basic principles behind the creation of legislative regulation and the shaping of its application in practice. With the help of legislation, in particular, it is possible to violate human rights and commit crimes. History, including our own, is full of examples of both laws and law enforcement that are criminal.
"Much is being done in these areas [in legislation and law enforcement] to protect the power of the ruling elite or to empower the business elite.
"The interests and goals of individual groups are achieved at the expense of electoral rights violations, massive irregularities in the course of electoral processes, the effective destruction of political competition, massive violation of civil rights, property rights and human rights.
"Such regulation and law enforcement can hardly command respect and serve as criteria for a correct or foul action. Yes, non-compliance with the rules can put an individual in conflict with the law, but the law itself and the practice of law enforcement are in conflict with justice and the principle of the public interest guidelines.
"To such an argument, critics of the Belarus protesters respond with warnings against chaos. But these warnings are a consequence of a peculiar perception of chaos. For them, the protests of the “yellow vests” in France an example of chaos, but the beatings in the Belarus police departments are not.
"If chaos is created by the hands of a person in uniform, and is further based on a sealed statute, then this, according to such a person’s understanding, is not chaos, but order.
"Obviously, this is a crude transference of order and power. Power is a tool that can maintain order, or, on the contrary, spread terror and repression.
"From this point of view, it is necessary to assess the actions of the Belarusians protesting against the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. The voting process and the subsequent votes counting were not transparent, and the results announced by the authorities did not tally with society’s expectations of the voting results, which were formed based on thousands upon thousands of testimonies. The electoral rights of Belarusians were grossly violated, which forced people to take to the streets. And then the human rights were massively violated by the authorities.
"Given this development, a balanced system of government, including independent courts and self-government bodies, would have supported the decision of the protesters to peacefully express their outrage. However, such a system of balances simply does not exist in Belarus. Therefore, society had to act independently, and the steps it took were definitely in line with the criterion of justice."
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch 8901, Russian Liberals Believe That The Growing Protest Movement In Belarus Will Be Replicated In Russia, August 19, 2020.
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8920, Russian Leaders View The Belarus Opposition At Best As Incompetents, At Worst As Russophobic Foreign Agents, September 3, 2020.
 Novayagazeta.ru, October 16, 2020.