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Belarus is covered with glaciers at peoples expense  ? photos

14:10, — Politics

Belarus is covered with glaciers at peoples expense

It is immoral and dangerous to take part in the Ice Hockey World Championship in Minsk.

A press-conference Dont play with dictator took place at the Belarusian House in Warsaw on 6 May, before the opening of the Ice Hockey World Championship in Minsk. The leader of the European Belarus civic campaign, a 2010 presidential candidate and a former political prisoner Andrei Sannikov, a European Parliament member for Poland Marek Migalski, the web-sites editor-in-chief Natalia Radzina,a Polish journalist, the author of the Studio Wschód program Maria Przełomiec and a Russian human rights activist Olga Zakharova.

As she opened the conference, Maria Przełomiec pointed out that the events in Ukraine had pushed into shadow the events in the territory of the former Soviet Union.

Among other forgotten also is that on 9 May in the state, called Europes last dictatorship, an Ice Hockey World Championship starts. We may say that it is a sort of a present, made by the International Ice Hockey Federation to Aliaksandr Lukashenka, who plays hockey himself and is an amateur in this sports.

The Belarusian ruler got this present in 2008, when Europe hoped it will manage to tame the dictator. I would remind that then even foreign ministers of Poland and Germany went to Belarus. Later, after Lukashenka had already got to host the competition, he rigged elections for yet another time, brutally dispersed a protest manifestation and came back to persecuting opponents, having thrown them in prisons.

Last year a former head of the European Parliament and a part of his fellow parliament members addressed the International Ice Hockey Federation with a request to relocate the world championship from Belarus. The same was done by the US Congress. But this made no effect on the IIFH, they said that sports and politics should not intersect. I would like to remind, though, that even in Ancient Greece sports intersected with politics for the time of the Olympics all the wars suspended. A part of European Parliament members tried to force the federation to put forward a condition of the release of all the political prisoners before the start of the tournament. But the federation turned out to be inconvincible and refused to do that. As a result now there are nine political prisoners in Belarus.

One should understand now, whether the Ice Hockey World Championship in Minsk is a proof of the complete helplessness of the Western world or, what is worse, an argument in favor of the democratic world being so cynical that it is not concerned about what is taking place beyond our Eastern border, - Maria Przełomiec said.

The journalist asked the web-sites chief editor Natalia Radzina to tell about the situation in Belarus few days to the championship, and whether there was a chance that Lukashenka would agree to release the political prisoners without demanding a plea for pardon from them.

I think, nothing will change after the tournament, on the contrary the human rights situation will only deteriorate. Today we can observe mass arrests of political activists in Belarus, and repressions will grow during the whole time of the championship. Everyone gets arrested, who was noticed taking part in protest manifestations. All the political prisoners, who have been released, but stay under preventive supervision, get arrested again or they are offered to leave Minsk for the time of the championship. Apart from that, according to our information, not only former political prisoners get arrested, but all the citizens under preventive supervision. Hundreds thousand people get sent to labour camps, which in reality are the so-called activity therapy centers. Leave alone the homeless and the so-called anti-social elements, from whom Minsk has already been cleansed before the championship. What happened to these people? Minsk has been completely cleansed before the arrival of foreign guests and it will be very difficult to see the real picture.

It is important that foreign journalists, having arrived for the championship, did not forget about political prisoners, about the thousands of the repressed in the year of Lukashenkas rule, about the kidnapped and murdered oppositionists and journalists. They must say and repeat that the European officials and sports functionaries, who agreed to holding the world championship in Minsk, are responsible for the fates for the hundreds thousand people, who got repressed during the event, - Natalia Radzina said.

The leader of the European Belarus civic campaign Andrei Sannikov pointed out that the president of the International Ice Hockey Federation Rene Fasel bears personal responsibility for todays repressions in Belarus:

I spoke to Leila Junus, a well-known Azerbaijani human rights activist, who is now under incredible pressure in her country, and asked what took place in Baku at the time of the Eurovision. We heard that it was a chance for pro-democracy forces and human rights activists in Azerbaijan to show the whole world what is really taking place in the country. But the Eurovision did not help Azerbaijan. On the contrary, people were thrown to prisons, their houses got ruined, the pressure increased on the opposition. Such a one-time interest to a country during international events does not help, but leads to more negative consequences.

This is a most dangerous situation. Yes, European Parliament members, human rights activists and journalists are going to come to Minsk. But when the period of increased interest ends, the regime starts hunting after people. You said that there are nine political prisoners today in Belarus. That is not correct there are already over 20. Those, who are behind bars today, including two former political prisoners Dzmitry Dashkievich and Aliaksandr Frantskievich, are political prisoners. Maksim Viniarski has been released the other day, but his health conditions causes much concern, because during the whole time he had stayed in prison he had been on hunger strike, which was dry at first.

Something should be done. Simple appeals do not work. Parliament members, world starts, journalists, human rights activists addressed the head of the IIFH Rene Fasel, but he hears nothing. Probably, we will later find out what there actually is, why he is so firm in insisting on the decision to hold the Ice Hockey World Championship in Minsk. Moreover, Russia, which is at war in Ukraine, have got the right to hold the World Cup in football, and it is important now to create a mechanism for withdrawing such decisions. It is important for sports functionaries to bear responsibility for everyone repressed during tournaments and on their even, so Rene Fasel answered personally, so he provided assistance to political prisoners and their families, who have suffered because of his irresponsible decision.

In Sannikovs opinion, Lukashenkas dictatorship got a present today in the form of a worlds highest level competition, although the situation in Belarus is today even more horrible than before the Olympic Games of 1980 in Moscow.

In the USSR dissident also got isolated, while the declassed elements were taken beyond the 100th kilometer. In Belarus it is not 100 km away, but simply to a concentration camp, because an activity therapy center is a concentration camp. Many do not pay attention to that, because who would worry about declassed elements, - Sannikov said.

Maria Przełomiec asked the European Parliament Member Marek Migalski why the West practically did nothing in regards of the Lukashenka regime.

MEPs addressed the IIHF twice in order to relocate the championship. That is why European politicians behaved decently at least on that issue. In my view, the main party responsible for the championship being held in Minsk is the independent non-governmental organization, which is the IIHF. They constantly reiterated to us that we should not intervene into the affairs of an independent sporting organization, politics should not intersect with sports.

This is, of course, plain hypocrisy. Because we know that the arrangement of this championship in Belarus is precisely the use of sports by a certain politician. There was a similar situation with the Sochi Olympics. The question is what Lukashenka gave this organization for the right to host the event. Today, as we did not manage to cancel the world championship, we should use it for changing the situation in Belarus, - Marek Migalski said.

The Russian human rights activist Olga Zakharova told how the Sochi Olympics helped Russias democratic development.

First of all, it is a big illusion that an international event can in any way influence the improvement of the situation in a country, which already is an authoritarian regime. In most case, like with our countries, the situation has gone so far that this regime can only be toppled it is impossible to correct it. Or it can change under the influence of some very strong external factors. But if it starts changing, it will just self-destroy.

Secondly, lets not make the mistake of confusing the notions, like officials do, who say that sports and politics are different things. Human rights for life, freedom, freedom of expression are not political things, but universal values, that is why they should not be accomplices to a crime.

After the Sochi Olympics cleansing continue, the situation in Russia gets worse and worse. For example, starting from 9 May I will no longer be able to say that Crimea was annexed I could be imprisoned for 5 years for that. The Olympics Committee was in fact an accomplice to a crime, because it adopted the rule that any political statement during the Olympics will lead to the disqualification of sportsmen. That is why, ladies and gentlemen, any international event is legitimation of the regime and a signal that it may keep mock and torture its people, - Olga Zakharova said.

At the end of the press-conference the participants were asked how todays aggression of Russia against Ukraine would influence Europe.

The Kremlins aggression against Ukraine is a Kremlins aggression against Europe. This must be realized, because Putins plans do not stop at the territory of Ukraine. This is a well-prepared aggression. Look, how many pro-Russian media, PR firms, are working today in Europe, businessmen, who lobby for the interest of the Kremlin. Not only the fate of Ukraine depends on withstanding that, but of the whole European Union, - Andrei Sannikov said.

Natalia Radzina stated that it is important to admit the failure of the Wests policy in the whole post-Soviet area.

I can tell more: Europe is influenced by what takes place in Belarus. There would not have been such a situation in Russia, and in Ukraine, had Europe in its time paid attention to the dictatorship in Belarus. Apart from statements of concern and insignificant sanctions against the Lukashenka reime nothing was done. Belarus was a testing field, at which Vladimir Putin tested the Wests patience. He understood that the West is ready to shut their eyes to the unlawfulness taking place in neighboring Belarus, that the European Union is weak, since it is unable to take any decision unanimously, especially if it is the issue of economic sanctions.

There is already a war in Europe. You do not want to see it. Any day now, already in May, the invasion of Russian army into the territory of south-eastern Ukraine may take place. Crimea has already been occupied, again, along the Wests silent agreement. What will you do today? Lukashenka is a Kremlins ally. You may say whatever you please that he may not completely be an ally to Putin, but, excuse me, he is not an ally to the West either. That is why in this situation decisive measures are required. Introduce real sanctions. Look for a substitute for Russian oil and gas. While there is the Putin regime, there will be no changes in Russia, or Ukraine, or Belarus. While there is the Lukashenka regime, there will be no stability in Ukraine, - Radzina said.

The press-conference in Warsaw was also attended by the chairman of the Radio-Electronic Industry Trade Union (REITU) Hienadz Fiadynich, who came from Minsk.

Today Belarus is packed with twenty five glaciers. People call them not ice palaces, but glaciers. For example, in Pruzhany the glacier is called NHL night hockey league. Guys from Minsk come there at night to play hockey, to go to sauna and then come back to Minsk. There was a plan to build about 27 more glaciers. At the time one glacier cost over 30 million dollars. How much did it all cost our pockets?

As to the boycott. Unfortunately, the international community has not learnt to confront business, even more so when it is political. The statutes of all the international sports federation should say: if human rights are violated in a country, no applications should be considered in any way. How can an Ice Hockey World Championship be held in Belarus, while in neighboring Ukraine blood is being shed? This is dreadful. People have mixed feeling today: on the one hand there is a world championship, but on the other it is very sad. The festivity will be there on poster. There are will be no empty seats at the games, because the arenas will be filled by coercively. This will be a picture, behind which they hide a terrible reality, - Hienadz Fiadynich said.

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