After several days of tolerating illegal and increasingly violent protests against the results of the country’s recent presidential elections, the Belarusian government put a stop to them during the early morning hours of March 25.

According to the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, security forces held back until then in order to avoid the possibility of a violent clash with protesters, who numbered several thousand. The protesters were challenging the March 19 re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko to a third term.

However, when opposition leader and former presidential candidate Alexander Kozulin called on demonstrators to take over power by force and urged them to proceed toward a government building, police intervened. Several policemen and demonstrators were injured, and some of the more violent demonstrators, including Kozulin, were arrested. The protest was quickly dispersed.

While Western governments and media sources have focused on and denounced the dispersal of the demonstrators, Belarusian authorities said the call to “take power by force” was a clear provocation. Even former presidential candidate Alexander Milinkevich, whom most of the demonstrators were there to support, said Kozulin had staged a provocation and that he would no longer work with him.

The March 25 incident has been cited in the Western media as emblematic of a lack of democracy in Belarus. However, government spokesmen pointed out that during demonstrations in other, Western European cities, people engaged in far less provocative behavior were met with the “use of water-jets, tear-gas grenades, batons and other special equipment.” They suggested the European Union and United States not use a double standard when judging Belarus.

Those who were arrested were taken to a courthouse in the Lenin District of Minsk and promptly tried, The New York Times reported. The highest estimate of those sentenced to jail was 115 people, with the maximum sentence being 15 days in jail.

There is ample evidence that the Belarusian opposition is manipulated by foreign powers. Money from the U.S.-based National Endowment for Democracy has been distributed to opposition forces, for example, and anti-government messages, paid for by the European Union, have been beamed into the country via radio.

Western European and U.S. interference in Belarus is motivated by two factors, critics say. The first is strategic: it’s part of an ongoing campaign to install pro-Western governments in countries traditionally close to Russia. The second reason is that the Lukashenko government, which includes Communists, has maintained a socialist orientation, thereby blocking privatization and the wholesale plunder of the country by Western businesses.

For the moment, those business interests appear to have suffered a setback.