- 4, 2020
WARSAW — Stepan Svetlov’s computer sits on a desk in Warsaw, nearly 300 miles from Minsk, the capital of Belarus. But when Belarusians poured into the streets in the hours and days after President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko fraudulently claimed a re-election victory on Aug. 9, it was thanks in no small part to Mr. Svetlov, 22, and his computer.
Internet access was often blocked that week, leading opposition activists were in custody or in hiding, and independent media has long been heavily restricted in Belarus. But Belarusians were kept informed and even directed by an account run by Mr. Svetlov on one of the few social media platforms — Telegram — that had managed to maintain sporadic service during the internet outage.
From across the border, Mr. Svetlov and his team of five pumped out information about voter fraud and police violence — as well as tips about where, when and how to protest, evade the police, defend against police beatings, treat exposure to tear gas and locate medicine and safe houses.
“Take to the streets,” Mr. Svetlov and his team wrote after preliminary results were announced on Aug. 9, “and defend your votes!”