Andrei Sannikov: Russia needs Lukashenka to be a fright for Europe
10:13, — Politics
Belarusian regime absolutely does not need the Eastern Partnership, it needs its legitimization on the part of Europe for getting money, a Belarusian oppositionist Andrei Sannikov claims.
In his opinion, with Aliaksandr Lukashenka in power a dialogue with Europe is impossible. “This is deadly dangerous first of all for activists, for citizens, because repressions have not slackened and keep taking place on the daily basis”, - the Belarusian politician believes.
In an interview to DELFI the former political prisoner and presidential candidate in Belarus, the leader of the European Belarus civic campaign shared his view on the situation in the relations of Belarus and the EU and warned Lithuanian businessmen of the danger of doing business in the neighboring country, because they risk losing it and ending up in prison “as soon as it seems attractive to the regime”.
- The EU has made another step, excluded 13 officials and 5 enterprises from the sanctions list. How would you comment on that?
- So far I can only say that the list remains active and the names of the people, involved in crimes, get added to it. However, the fact does not do the credit to Europe.
- The EU keeps speaking of the possibility of a dialogue with the Lukashenka regime, suggesting Minsk to talk. In your opinion, is a conversation possible?
- With Lukashenka in power it is impossible, that is why they should decide. In 2010 after the bloody dispersal of a manifestation, I think, there were no disagreements on the fact that there is a dictatorship in Belarus and brutal repressions are used against citizens. Now for some reason they start speaking of some possibility to start a dialogue with the authoritarian regime. This is deadly dangerous first of all for activists, for citizens, because the repressions have not slackened and take place on the daily basis. The ambassador and the head of the EU delegation in Minsk admitted that the authorities react and do not leave a smallest protest without attention.
Why is it especially dangerous now? Lukashenka constantly broadens the scale of repressions and aims for Europe to recognize these repressions. There were repeated attempts to speak with the dictator and led to sad consequences. Now after these repressions to return to such attempts means to first of all doom political prisoners to additional tortures. And another thing – political assassinations should be expected in Belarus, because as soon as Lukashenka feels the legitimization by the means of a dialogue – the dictatorship’s most brutal actions should be expected.
Once kidnappings and murders of political leaders took place, and by a common effort we managed to prevent such murders from continuing until 2010-2011. Now they have resumed – before the elections Aleh Biabienin died, there was a metro bombing, which is not an assassination of opponents, but is an intimidation act, which was not solved. No one in Belarus believes that there was an independent investigation and the people, who were found guilty and executed in a hurry, were the ones, who organized the terroristic act.
- Lately reflections have been heard on whether Belarus is lost for Europe or not. The topic of one of the discussions at the conference was formulated practically in the same way. Nevertheless, Europeans and Belarusian authorities speak of the Eastern Partnership…
- Pavol Demesh put it absolutely correctly during the discussion, having said that with Lukashenka in power there will be no official participation of Belarus in the Eastern Partnership. The Eastern Partnership is a kind of a format of Belarus relations with Europe and it should not disappear even if Belarus, tentatively speaking, quits the Eastern Partnership, the relations should not disappear. The EU can do a lot unilaterally. They increasingly realize that visa facilitation, free visas will be a serious instrument of influence on the Belarusian situation. Now the Erasmus plus program has started, which means that there are instruments that can be used without the participation of the authorities, without asking for their permission, and can be used effectively. No one asks Lukashenka and the officials, involved in crimes, whether they want to be on the black list or not. Europe makes decisions and they are followed.
- Why does the regime need the Eastern Partnership?
- The regime absolutely does not need the Eastern Partnership, it needs the recognition of its legitimacy. This is needed for getting money. Lukashenka does not need any documented relations with Europe. He will not take any liabilities to Europe, but the very talk about a dialogue already gives the opportunity to receive at least private assets. He does not want to close the channel for getting money.
Let’s remember the recent story, the dialogue before the 2010 presidential elections helped Lukashenka get an IMF loan. Had Europe acted tough and had there been no dialogue, there would have been no loan. This is what he needed before the elections in order to bribe the population with increased pensions and salaries, but the main thing – to pay for the repressive machine for dispersing and annihilating the opposition. This is what the IMF money was spent on.
Now this all is taking place so he could get money for saving the regime. Apart from that the familiar thesis is being used that Russia puts pressure, does not provide loans, but I (Lukashenka - DELFI) resist and you should help, because you are interested in me resisting Russia. Many Europeans buy that.
- May be it is already useless to resist Russia?
- This is not resistance to Russia, but the preservation of the criminal regime with the use of Western and Russian assets.
- Is Russia, in your opinion, ok with Lukashenka, despite the stories like the one with Baumgertner, for example?
- Yes, Russia is ok with him. Russia does not consider Belarus and independent state and for that reason does not reckon with what takes place in the country. Lukashenka suits Russia, and it needs him for the Eurasian Union, for intimidating the West with military exercise at its borders, including Lithuania and Poland. Russia needs him as a fright for Europe.
- Lithuania is currently presiding in the Council of the EU, but at the same time conducts bilateral policy too: business forums are organized, Lithuanian enterprises and shops get opened in Belarus. What can you say about Lithuania’s policy towards Belarus?
- No business should be made with Lukashenka. I can only warn Lithuanian businessmen, if their own MFA does not warn them that they may find themselves in prison very fast. As soon as the profits seem attractive to the regime, they should start preparing for raider seizures, racketeering and imprisonments. This is my sad experience from prison, where I met businessmen from different countries, including Lithuania.
- Has the regime managed to neutralize the protest sentiment and opposition after 2010?
- Yes, it has. For the first time in our modern history there were no protest actions after the so-called parliamentary elections. We did not have that, in all the elections the opposition necessarily came out in the streets and declared its protest against the falsifications. Although there has long been no election as such. So yes, they have managed, and this may work against Lukashenka himself, because dispersing protests, which were the only way of attracting attention to the situation in Belarus, will lead to a burst. Despite all the pressure on the part of the regime, the bifurcation point will once be reached. When the society is deprived of all the means of communicating an alternative point of view and the possibility to influence the public policy in all the spheres of life, this will inevitably lead to a conflict.
- In your opinion, is the regime durable?
- I do not think so, because in 2010 the regime suffered a political loss. It is obvious that the opposition won the elections. In 2011 it suffered an economic loss, when the financial collapse took place. Had not Russia saved the regime, I think, there would have been no more Lukashenka…
- There will be elections in 2015…
- I think before 2015 events will take place that will influence the regime. Let’s put it this way, the regime acts like it is durable. The repressive machine is quite durable, but the regime itself is not.
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