21 January 2018, Sunday, 17:30

Andrei Sannikov: Release of political prisoners is primary task


Andrei Sannikov, the leader of European Belarus civil campaign, calls the Vilnius memorandum “harmful and dangerous”.

A former presidential candidate and political prisoner said in an interview with Radio Svaboda that organisers of the Vilnius opposition meeting on November 3 had not allowed a European Belarus representative to participate in the talks.

Andrei Sannikov explains why he didn't sign the Vilnius memorandum:

“I looked at the memorandum as a professional. I'd like to say that documents are not made in this way. Those who read it may notice it is just an illiterate document, but I think it is also dangerous, because it contains some things directed not at protection of Belarus's independence, but against it.

The first thing that raises questions is that political prisoners are not mentioned directly. I think in this situation we should use every meeting to demand the release of political prisoners and tell their names. There are certain games who can be considered a political prisoner and who cannot. Every meeting should start and end with it. We've recently had a meeting with European Belarus members in Warsaw to discuss different issues, but the first topic to discuss was the problem of political prisoners.

Secondly, the document says about self-isolation of Belarus. You should now that  the achievement of all political forces and the whole opposition is self-isolation of Lukashenka's dictatorial regime, but not self-isolation of Belarus, because both activists and politicians hold meetings with Europeans, Americans, Russian and Ukrainian politicians on the highest level.

Thirdly, the document says guarantees of Belarus's independence are needed. As if no one knew that we received these guarantees in 1994. I don't think the people, who prepared the document, didn't know it. In my opinion, it was made deliberately. I would dismiss the people involved in preparation of the document. They also mention the authoritarian regime, not the totalitarian regime or dictatorship and so on. I find the memorandum dangerous. I cannot sign such dangerous things both for professional and moral reasons.”

Sannikov says many questions would have disappeared at the stage of the memorandum preparation if a European Belarus representative had been permitted to take part in the opposition meeting in Vilnius on November 3.

The politician warns there will no coordination among the people who signed the memorandum. Sannikov said about European Belarus campaign's contacts with these organisations:

“We have always worked with everyone. We have an understanding what BNR Council is. We have always respect them as a symbol of our history and the body that will affirm the democratisation and independence of Belarus in the nearest future.”