19 January 2018, Friday, 6:31



Gunnar Wiegand, an envoy from Brussels, paid a visit to Makiey who is banned to enter the European Union.

A brief message came from the press-service of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry on the evening of 17 December: “The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus Uladzimir Makiey received director of the Department of Russia, “Eastern Partnership”; Central Asia, regional cooperation and OSCE, European Service of foreign actions Gunnar Wiegand who is visiting Belarus on business. The parties have discussed the current state of the relations between Belarus and the European Union, and ways to improve them.”

It is not Wiegand’s first visit to Minsk. In February this year he already visited to Belarus and came by the Foreign Ministry. After the visit to the temple of Lukashenka-diplomacy, during a meeting with the opposition he made vague remarks that in the coming few weeks several political prisoners could be released. He also pointed out that from then on the EU would pay attention not only to the hot political issues, but also to the modernization of the country in other specters: economy and social sphere. BPF party leader Aliaksiey Yanukievich retold Wiegand’s words to the Belarusian media.

Following that, two political prisoners were released, but only several months after. During Wiegand’s visit in February 2011, it was already known that Andrei Sannikov and Dzmitry Bandarenka were forced, by pressure and tortures, to sign an appeal for pardon, and that sooner or later they would be freed.

Nevertheless, the dictatorship was benefited for its “mercy”: since the two political prisoners were released, no real sanctions have been imposed against the regime. This may be what Wiegand came to discuss. But the actual price of these talks is the other political prisoners, who are still kept in jails, in most inhumane conditions, and whose prison terms are being extended.

It looks like the European democracy repeatedly makes the same mistake. An EU-representative chose to visit Makiey who is not allowed to come to Europe and who is involved in the repressions against opposition.

If the Europeans have decided that a conversation with Makiey became possible after Siargey Kavalenka and Paval Syramalotau were released this fall, they should think better. These two political prisoners were forced to sign the appeals, and Kavalenka fought against the pressure and kept a long-lasting hunger-strike which nearly caused him life – the facts that Europe must know and take into account.

Had it really been about the fate of the political prisoners, the European Union would not send envoys to Makiey. It would take completely different measures: economic sanctions, limitations of business-contacts with Lukashenka’s oligarchs and officials responsible for the repressions against opposition. But nothing like this has been happening during the last several months. On the contrary, it seems that Europe has frozen in an odd expectation, while Belarusian punishers are active as never before: the political prisoners are being transferred to reformatories with even more inhumane conditions, they are being bullied, isolated, threatened with rape.

Minister Makiey with his embarrassing prohibition to come to the European Union lured Wiegand to Minsk under a false excuse – ”to save Belarus’ independence from Russia”. And Wiegand, just like many other European officials, is eager to get caught by Lukashenka’s old bat for thousand times. The plan is simple: we give you some political prisoners (who will then be watched when “released” and risk to get back to the same jail any moment), and you open a credit line for us, while this monster Putin tortures us with oil, gas, privatization, and all during the severe crisis in the country.

This is a simple bargain where political prisoners are used as a coin and means to get Western money. The money will then be spent on new spears to guard the dictator’s power. Lukashenka who is used to such shameless trade will spend the money in no time, and new prisoners of consciousness are likely to fill prison cells.

Europe’s envoys should pass warnings to the dictator about serious measures that can be taken if all the political prisoners are not released. And there should be a deadline after which the measures will be taken. But it seems that the EU is merely flirting with the dictatorship. Otherwise the Foreign Ministry would not report happily about a “normalization”, and at least some information about the odd visit would appear on the EU’s official website.

Natallia Radzina, editor-in-chief of charter97.org