Both Russia and Europe should look in the true face of Lukashenka’s regime.
Andrei Sannikov, former presidential candidate and coordinator of the civil campaign European Belarus said about it in an interview to Deutsche Welle.
According to Sannikov, the tough sanctions of the EU don’t affect the Belarusian people. They are dangerous for the dictatorship that projects prison repressions on the entire society.
Sannikov was arrested on the night of December 20, 2010, right after the mass protest rally against the fake elections result was suppressed in Minsk. In May 2011 the court found Sannikov guilty of organizing mass disorders and convicted him to a five-year term in a reformatory with a restricted regime. The human rights organization Amnesty International proclaimed Andrei Sannikov a prisoner of consciousness.
In April 2012 Sannikov was released on parole after a decree of president Aliaksandar Lukashenka. In September 2012 he was granted the status of refugee in the UK. His wife, journalist Iryna Khalip, also accused of organizing mass disorders, remains in Minsk under home arrest.
- You are watching the situation in Belarus from a distance. How does it look like?
- In Belarus, the economic and political situations are insane. Even officials from the government realize how badly the country needs reforms. And yet, everything what is being done today leads nowhere.
Fear stands behind the powers’ unwise actions because they don’t have the people’s support anymore. However, the regime still hopes to get help from Russia and from the West, by selling petrol products. The dictatorship has a very primitive plan: it needs money, not economy that can earn it. The loans are used to feed the repression machine, and nothing is left for the production.
- But Moscow offers Minsk financial support within the Common economic space and the future Eurasian union. Should Belarus move towards deeper Eurasian integration?
- I don’t know what Eurasia is, what rules it has, what political mechanisms function there. I know what the European Union is, I understand its principles, and I advocate for Belarus’ integration to Europe which at the same time is beneficial for Russia.
Right now I can see that the relations between Moscow and Minsk are built on the same insane principle. Russia wants to control the Belarusian economy, while the Belarusian powers treat it only as a game, a search for money. But this integration discourse and refusal to cooperate with the West gives the regime the funds. I am convinced however that the Kremlin realizes that Lukashenka is not a suitable business partner.
- Some Western experts say that a multipolar world is already a reality and that no boosting methods, such as sanctions, are needed. What do you think?
- It merely shows that Aliaksandar Lukashenka has a strong lobby in the West. Dictatorships can be useful even for civilized countries, in case businesses try to make quick money not in a most transparent way. The Belarusian powers give them such an opportunity, and the lobbyists work in this direction. It is especially obvious in Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.
But where are these experts? They are in comfortable democratic states where their rights are protected, where nothing threatens them, where they will not go to prison for their ideas. But they should try living in Belarus as regular citizens, spending some time in prison, where I saw innocent people being humiliated and treated in a way that even criminals don’t deserve.
The Belarusian regime projects prison experience on the entire society. The punishment system is implemented everywhere; today you don’t have to be an oppositionist to get to prison, it is enough to upload photos online, to express an opinion in an Internet blog.
- The Belarusian opposition is trying to decide how to select one candidate for the presidential elections 2015. What could bring the Belarusian opposition together?
- Free elections held under international scrutiny could improve the situation in the country. But let’s ask ourselves if it is possible. Today the right thing to do would be to change the logics of the actions and to take for a fact that there is no election process in the country. And that means that the opposition’s attempts to find common denominator for the forces of different social weight and potential will be ineffective.
The high level of the society’s solidarity that was demonstrated despite the violent repressions is a lesson that the opposition should have learnt from the year 2010. Today it is crucial to unite around solidarity with the political prisoners, it is crucial to help their families. It is the most valuable thing to preserve. We shouldn’t start playing the game of one candidate – it will only put the opposition under even harder control from the special services.
- How can the European Union help the democratic community in Belarus?
- First of all, the EU should treat the dictatorship in a proper way. On the one hand, the regime is labeled “Europe’s last dictatorship”; on the other hand, the Europeans try to negotiate with this last dictator in a civilized manner. But these are two mutually exclusive things.
I disagree with the opinions expressed in the West and by a part of the opposition, that large-scale sanctions against the regime can push Belarus closer to Russia. How can we discuss the effects of something we have not yet tested? Meanwhile, the Belarusian export gets the biggest part of its profits from the European Union, which Minsk proudly reports.
Stop whining that the tough measures hurt the Belarusian people. Nothing hurts more than the dictatorship. The situation is abnormal not only for the Belarusians; it is dangerous for the entire democratic world. Dictators from different spheres - illegal trade of weapon, drugs or human organs, human trafficking - get along very quickly. This undermines the international security, everyone’s big concern. In other words, Europe should stop providing for the regime, otherwise it will strengthen the axis of evil.