21 January 2018, Sunday, 3:45

Dzmitry Bandarenka: Navalny is just a boy

Belarusian politician Dzmitry Bandarenka has celebrated his 50th birthday.

Editor-in-chief of charter97.org Natallia Radzina talked to one of the leaders of the Belarusian opposition about his life and fight.

- Dzmitry, your biography is so rich that I don’t even know where to start. Let’s take it from the very beginning: you were born in 1963 in Minsk…

- I was a typical soviet kid. I was born and lived for 18 years in Fabrychnaya street, a workers’ district of Minsk called “Velazavod” (“bycicle factory”). My father, Yaugen Ivanavich, spent the first half of his life working at this very factory, and the second half working at the KBTEM plant. My mother, Nadzieya Andreyeuna, was even more devoted to her working place, the Krupskaya sawing factory (today called Elema), where her career evolved from an ordinary seamstress to deputy chief technologist.

When I was 6 I went to school number 47. The school refused to accept me because of my age – one month under 7. But the headmaster of the school, the future grandmother of our future tennis player and pop-star Volga Barabanshchykava, lived in our building. I remember coming to her office for an audition, telling her a poem and being accepted to the first grade.

Once my father took me to a swimming pool. I liked it a lot and it defined my life for at least 20 years.

- So these years were related to sports?

- Yes. Swimming demands that you give all you have. Even if you’re not a successful professional sportsman, you still have to swim 13-15 km soaking in chlorine every day for many years. In the 9th grade I started practicing underwater swimming, and to become a professional I entered the University of Physical Culture.

I had a fantastic coach Valeriy Prokofyevich Popov, a legend in the world of underwater swimming and sports science of the entire USSR. He raised dozens of champions and record-breakers. He had a great influence on me.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t continue with my favorite underwater swimming because of a stupid injury already in the first year. But I enjoyed my studies in the University because, firstly, Minsk’s most beautiful girls studied there, and secondly, it was really interesting to study there because of the strong bond between theory and practice. And after classes in the history of the communist party we went straight to swim or ski, and filtered away all needless information.

In the university we met stars nearly every day. For example, twice a year almost the entire football team Dinamo Minsk, the USSR champions back then, came to take their winter exams. You could easily spot Prokop (Aleksandr Prokopienko), Ziko (Andrei Zygmantovich) and other heroes of our football. Most famous sportsmen and coaches were our lectures and instructors. For example, the four time Olympic champion in fencing Elena Belova was the head of the department for pedagogic and psychology. 1980-1984 was the time when Belarusian sport and sport science were very strong.

When a student, I tried karate, which was popular back then. I was a fan of Oleg Kiriienko and Leonid Lushchik who studied and taught in the university. Then the communist party and government prohibited karate and many clubs went underground.

- Have your coach skills proved to be useful further in life?

- It is crucial to understand what a coach’s job is. It’s all about the ability to prepare a sportsman or a team on a specific day so that after a long and exhausting training the sportsman can shoot and reach the peak exactly on this very day, and not another. This is the art of a coach and the uniqueness of the profession.

A sportsman has many variables. One can fall in love, get married, fall ill, get an injury, have economic problems. And the coach should motivate the sportsman for hard daily physical labor that lasts for many years and brings results.

In the USSR and in Belarus in particular, coaches were never very rich, apart from the elite. Coaches are ascetics devoted to their job. They should have good planning skills, logics, flexibility. They should resist all kinds of pressure, be able to find compromise, provide organizational, economic and physical basis for the training process.

- How is the present day’s sport different from the sport back then?

- In the USSR, there was the so-called sport pyramid. In its basement, there were physical culture and mass sports. On the top there was elite sport where only the best could enter. Many children from poor families (and all families were poor) strived to achieve this top to be able to travel and compete abroad.

Then the sport was truly mass. As I have already mentioned, Volga Barabanshchykava’s family lived in my building. Natallia Zvierava lived in the building next to ours. Andrei Tabolin was another neighbor; I started swimming with him. Then he became the famous hockey tough-guy responsible for defense of the very Helmut Balderis in Dinamo Riga. Belarusian champions in swimming, karate, gymnastics, figure skating, cycling, football and yachting lived in our neighborhood.

If you check the neighborhood today, I don’t think you’ll find even five children who would regularly do any sport.

Aliaksandar Lukashenka, a native of the Shklou district, played an active role in the destruction of the Belarusian sports. In 1995, Mikalay Khalezin told me: “Had Lukashenka focused on doing sports instead of fixing economy, everything would have been much better.” I replied: “Kolia, trust me, what is happening today will have disastrous consequences. All we have is the rests of the soviet system (a very decent system), and Lukashenka is destroying it.”

Today we witness a total disaster in all spheres. Belarus didn’t win a single medal during the World Championship in track-and-field. Despite newly built ice halls and investments worth billions, hockey doesn’t bring any results either. Junior teams that the ice halls were built for lose consistently even in B leagues. Only several sportsmen, who often live abroad, and only a handful of teams – BATE in football, Dinamo Minsk in handball and the women’s basket, are successful.

- How can sportsmen tolerate all these orders, rudeness, incompetency?

- People in sports and military are least independent. They fully depend on the government. Many post-socialist countries use other approaches. There business is in charge of the elite sports.

It’s different in Belarus. Here we have a mixture of the USSR and Hitler’s Germany. What is left for people to do? Here sport is funded from the state. They do understand, tolerate, many of them emigrate. Hundreds of Belarusian coaches have successful careers abroad.

- Viktoryia Azarenka’s match with Aliaksandar Lukashenka split the society. What is your reaction?

- I have a deep respect to her because this is a tremendous success, to be number one or two in the world tennis. Tennis is a huge business with vast amounts of money and sharpest competition. I can only be proud that our girl keeps leading positions. I think that sometimes she suffers from having to represent dictator’s Belarus.

- So sport should be separated from the politics. How about the World Championship in hockey that will be held in Belarus?

- Sport and politics are two completely different things. When Azarenka beats Serena Williams, she’s not there to represent Lukashenka. He, in his turn, wants to be a part of the victory and tells stories about having given her buns and sweets. Azarenka’s victories belong to her family who has been working with her since she was a child and who has made the wise decision to send her to study and train in the US. Viktoria, the Minsk-born wife of Russian NHL goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, helped Azarenka in the beginning. So Vika represents Belarus, not the dictatorship.

The World Championship in hockey cannot be held in Minsk due to various reasons. First of all, hockey is Lukashenka’s mania. There were other competitions of this level held in Belarus but they never got so much attention.

Secondly, the timing is very bad. A highest-level hockey event cannot be held at the same time with mass repressions. This would only encourage the dictator for new murders and arrests.

- Let’s get back to your biography. You were a spetsnaz GRU fighter. How did it happen?

- It was my military service that I began as a bright graduate of the University of Physical culture, 21 years old and married - a mature person, according to the army standards. I’m glad that I got to see how the soviet army’s most efficient units function.

- How did you come to Dainova, the major company of the 90s? I remember that the commercial of Dainova was everywhere – on TV, radio, in all papers, on billboards…

- Before that I was an advertisement manager in Studio Top – a private company that worked with the Belarusian television (BT). We provided BT with news from BBC and CNN and MTV shows that later were translated to Belarusian. By the way, one of the translators from English to Belarusian was the future vice foreign minister and Lukashenka’s assistant Valiantsin Rybakou.

Dainova was one of the major advertisers on TV. I had contacts and was invited by the management to work as the advertisement director. Those were good times. My wife still tells me that we will never have such comfortable, bright life full with positive events.

- In other words, you came to Dainova not directly from sport. How did you start working with advertisement? I don’t think that there was a class in advertisement at the University of Physical Culture.

- Early 90s were the time of self-training in capitalism. Some mastered trade business, while I worked with sales of Belarusian gym machines, a know-how of the university. Our international team created center of biomechanical simulation (BMS) in different cities of the former USSR, from the Far East to Kyiv. We had to promote machines and methods, to read translations of marketing and advertisement book. Our salary depended on how well we were prepared which was a great stimulus for the brain.

- What was business like in the early 90s when you worked at Dainova? And the pressure from the powers, did it still remain after the USSR or did the new government start to press?

- In 1996 I met Viachaslau Kebich and Gianadz Karpienka. And Viachaslau Frantsavich told me that everyone would recall “Kebich’s thaw” as a good time.

I don’t consider Kebich an outstanding political leader. But 1991-1994 were good years for the Belarusian business and other aspects of life - the political activity, relatively independent TV, modern art, theater, cinema, colorful music events. Dainova, Pushe and Tair were all recognizable brands. Everything was possible. People worked 24 hours per day, could earn for living and realize their most daring projects.

Afterwards everything was demolished. Some had to emigrate, like Pupeiko, to escape from a conviction. Some remained in business, but not as large-scale as before.

I believe that in 1994 by isolating itself from the presidential campaign the Belarusian business made his most serious mistake. It should have bet on a person who would provide a free and consequent development of entrepreneurship in the country. Yes, the Belarusian People’s Front was strong at that time, but Zianon Pazniak would not get more than 25 percent of votes. The majority could vote for Gianadz Karpienka who was an acceptable candidate for most varied social groups.

National Belarusian independent business didn’t survive and is being purchased by Russians. The Belarusian business is still underdeveloped although some people have managed to earn millions. But their individual success had no connection to the economic development of Belarus.

- Who is making money in Belarus today? Who drives luxury cars, buys property? Where are these oligarchs?

- Once I talked to a major Russian businessman. He said that if we knew how much money Belarus gets from Russia, we would be in shock. According to him, Belarusians should eat from golden dishes and use golden flush toilets.

- Lukashenka does have a golden flush toilet…

- And the reason to that is that the vast part of the Russian money goes to the top. While previously Belarus was the “assembly plant” of the USSR, today the country earns by selling raw materials. 75 percent of the Belarusian budget is formed by oil, oil products and potassium fertilizers. These economic branches are under Lukashenka’s and KGB’s protection.

The business that has connections gets a part of these millions. But as the recent events show, it is dangerous to be a Belarusian or any other businessman in our country.

- Today Russia makes tremendous reductions in the budget which results in Belarus having to pay full fee for oil transit. Will that affect the situation in the country?

- The tiny dictatorship exists with the big dictatorship’s help. When crisis comes to Russia (and today it is a system crisis related to technologic obsolescence, shortage of work force, reduction of human potential and industries not based on raw materials), its vassals’ allowance will shrink.

Putin knows all about the collapse of the USSR that had helped the ineffective economies of Africa and the Middle East.

There is another factor: according to scientists, dictatorships like Lukashenka’s survive approximately 20 years. I believe that the nearest two-three years will be crucial both for Russia and Belarus.

- Let’s get back to your biography. Why did you leave the lucrative job at Dainova for the independent Radio 101.2?

- When I joined Dainova I thought that I’d work there Japanese style, it means all my life. The company supported a great number of projects around the Belarusian culture. I met famous Belarusians – Vasil Bykau, Mikola Yermalovich, Stefania Staniuta, Yosif Siaredzich, Igar Varashkievich, actors and directors of the Kupalauski theater. Together with Gianadz Dzmitryievich Karpienka I organized music and theatrical festivals in Maladziechna, and there were many other exciting projects, including Rock-coronation. It was all in one – work, self-realization, promotion of the Belarusian spirit.

In 1995, after the referendum, the national symbols were changed and the status of the Belarusian language was significantly undermined. One of the company’s directors removed the logotype with the word Dainova spelled in red letters on a white background. At that moment I realized that I cannot stay in this company for my entire life. For some, business is the goal. I had different priorities.

I understood that I don’t want to simply earn money in a country without Belarusian language and culture, where the soviet atmosphere is being restored. I had to resist.

My colleague from Studio Top Mikhal Kniazievich became one of the founders of the new Radio 101.2. It used to be the third FM-station after Radio Roks and Radio B-A. I was offered the position of the commercial director.

Radio 101.2 was doomed for success. We were an incredibly talented and interesting team – experienced Zhanna Litvina who had been the editor-in-chief of the successful radio station for youth; program director Dzmitry Novikau; genius soundman Uladzimir Sakulski; rock stars Liavon Volksi and Kasia Kamotskaya; most gifted Iryna Kurapatkina, Volga Karatkievich, Volga Babak, Yuras Bushliakou, Ganna Lobai, Volga Saroka… It was a fantastic project.

- What competition did the Belarusian-language radio station had?

- I know from my experience that being Belarusian is not an obstacle, but an advantage for a commercial success. The Belarusian language provides targeted positioning. Listeners could identify our station from the first seconds. Moreover, we were the only station that gave truthful information and was free from Russian pop-music. After one year we left our competition behind financially because advertisers were more willing to place their commercials with us.

In 1996 Belarus saw mass protest rallies whose success partially attributes to Radio 101.2. Lukashenka and his clique tracked it down, and right before the referendum of 1996 the radio station was shut down in a most outrageous manner. Another bright Belarusian project was killed in the very beginning.

- We end up talking politics all the time. It is probably no need to ask you why you joined the opposition after Radio 101.2 was shut down. To resist?

- During the perestroika and in the early 90s, when I tried to provide for my family, I still remained politically active. My wife and I went to all rallies of the Belarusian People’s Front since 1989. Even our little daughter often went with us; she used to sit on my shoulders.

When Lukashenka came to the power it was all clear for me. There were people who still had some expectations from him, but I wasn’t among them. I voted for Pazniak and I realized that Lukashenka is dangerous for Belarus. And he should have been opposed, first of all with information, and Belarusian projects should have been promoted even in the dictatorship.

After Radio 101.2 was shut down, editor Piotar Martsau offered me a job in the Foundation for independent press. In the late 90s it was a small but rather effective institution that functioned in parallel with the Belarusian association of journalists to protect journalists’ rights.

In the summer of 1997 Pavel Sheremet and Dzmitry Zavadski were arrested. I remember that we gathered in the office of the editorial houses of the newspapers Imia and BDG. What should we do? How can we save journalists? And we decided that we need protest rallies.

One of the most significant rallies was the ”March in striped robes”. The minor rally got a huge feedback and was covered by all international media to demonstrate solidarity. Together with TV-channel ORT and Boris Nemtsov we made the powers release Sheremet.

It was our first success, first experience of a mass rally. From the point of view of marketing we chose not to join the events held by politicians. We realized that we could influence public opinion and that we should protect ourselves and our friends.

Then Aleg Biabienin was kidnapped in the center of Minsk, taken to a forest and threatened with death and death of his colleagues from the newspaper Imia. It was the last drop, and we established Charter’97 as a document and human rights initiative. We realized that unless we do something, murders would follow.

- Why did you decide to establish Charter’97? I think this story is worth mentioning on the website that stands by these principles.

- The year was 1996. A horrible referendum was just held. It was clearly an overturn. The Superior Council was eliminated. Previously when I had worked in the media I was convinced that politicians know what to do and how to do it. I saw them on TV, Ganchar, Liabedzka, Karpienka, Dabravolski, Kaliakin… But then I saw frustrated people who had no idea what to do.

While the term ”marketing” had already been introduced to the Belarusian business, the Belarusian politicians, even the ones who had won elections, had a very vague understanding of it. And then a team appeared that consisted of journalists, directors of advertising and marketing departments of the leading Belarusian companies of that time. Among them were Mikalai Khalezin and Aliaksandar Dubravin. There are names that I cannot mention today.

This team provided volunteer assistance to political forces. In the United Civil Party we had contacts with Aliaksandar Dabravolski, whom I still consider the most market-oriented Belarusian politician. In the Belarusian People’s Front we worked with Viachaslau Siuchyk, later with Viktar Ivashkievich. We helped to organize rallies and place emphasis, offered creative ideas and even helped financially. The “political” spring of 1997 was bright and active, due to our group amongst others.

Later on Piotar Martsau invited me to take part in sessions of a discussion group that did not only talked about the current events but also tried to influence them. Already a former vice foreign ministry Andrei Sannikov, Viktar Ivashkievich, Uladzimir Matskievich were in the group. Other people joined our discussions from time to time. We discussed what was right and what was wrong in the Belarusian politics, what should be done and how.

I was a supporter of Zianon Pazniak, but I saw that after he had left and after many deputies had retired, the Front became very vulnerable. Basically, Papkou and Kryvarot were at the helm. The Belarusian People’s Front didn’t own the monopoly to the Resistance but it hindered other democratic organizations from coordinating their activity. Some politicians accepted the concept “my party – my concerns”: my Front, my United Civil Party, my Social Democrats… It was unnatural, because only a united movement could resist the dictatorship and find support of the people.

In 1997, after Sheremet had been arrested, pressure on the media had become stronger, Belarusian political forces had split and the dictatorship had grown even more aggressive, it became clear what should be done. The idea was born to launch a Belarusian Charter’97. The key goal of the initiative was to protect the people who fight against the regime, no matter whom they represent – trade unions, media or political parties.

16 years have passed. I have recently looked through old pictures from Charter’97 first press-conference and saw Aliaksandar Dabravolski, Pavel Sheremet, Viktar Karneienka, Aliaksandar Milinkievich, Andrei Sannikov, Ludzmila Graznova. It was a truly powerful move: pressure on the media ceased and the opposition demonstrated that it was strong and ready to defend itself. And we got international support. Journalists and 100 most famous people of the democratic Belarus were the first to sign the text of Charter’97.

Unfortunately, narrow corporate interests prevailed and some of us felt more comfortable in their own sand box (party). We may have made organizational mistakes. Those interested in consolidation, protection of the repressed people and result-oriented activity remained under the brand of Charter’97.

Six months later the consolidation idea of Charter’97 was realized when the Coordinating Rada of democratic forces was established. The Rada was the first and probably the strongest opposition structure of the united opposition. The first team included Gianadz Karpienka, Andrei Sannikov, Mikalai Statkievich, Yury Khadyka, Stanislau Bagdankievich and the organizations that they represented.

- And then you got engaged into organization of mass protest rallies. They say that March of Freedom is your idea.

- I worked where I could be useful. In the winter of 1998 we organized a rally that gathered 5 thousand participants to support the Congress of democratic forces. Gianadz Karpienka played a huge role in the organization of this rally. He was a truly national leader worthy of becoming the president of Belarus. He took the fact that in 1994 he didn’t go the whole way very hard. According to the Constitution, the next elections were to be held in 1999.

Karpienka thoroughly prepared for the elections. His sudden demise in the spring of 1999 became a shock. He passed away when he was just 49 years old! He was a corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences, a national sports judge, mayor, vice-speaker of the Superior Council and an amazing versatile individual.

Karpienka’s demise was a tragic sign. It was clear that the dictatorship had a plan. Soon after that Andrei Sannikov was assaulted and nearly killed, former prime minister Mikhal Chygir was arrested, general Yury Zakharanka disappeared…

Viktar Ganchar organized alternative presidential elections. There were many discussions and disputes. Unlike Karpienka, Viktar realized his project that he had designed on his own. Our reaction to the project was ambiguous, but in the summer of 1999 when Mikalai Khalezin and I had a chance to talk to Viktar Ganchar, we saw that he was a bright charismatic person who is longing to correct the mistake that he had made in 1994 when he had basically created Lukashenka.

He had prepared a report on the illegitimacy of the government and a juridical argumentation proving that was had happened in 1996 was a state overturn.

We agreed that Ganchar would held a session of the Superior Council of the 13th convocation that was still considered legitimate abroad, while Khazelin and I would prepare a mass rally related to the session. The March of Freedom and the session of the Superior Council were both scheduled for October 17.

The preparation of the rally was discrete. But Viktar had to talk to lots of different people…

August 30 was the official start of the preparation process of the March of Freedom. Its organization committee consisted of leaders of the key parties and movement. On September 16, 1999, Viktar Ganchar and Anatol Krasouski disappeared. It was a real blow, but we still were determined to hold the rally.

The March of Freedom demonstrated the power of the opposition. 25 thousand people went to the streets. Few know that a session of the Superior Council was scheduled for the same day. But it was canceled after the disappearance and, as we know now, the murder of Ganchar and Krasouski.

In 1999, Lukashenka and Sheiman kept the power through the diabolic scheme of murdering peers.

- In 2010 you became the head of Andrei Sannikov’s elections campaign of. Before that you had helped opposition candidates during the elections of 2001 and were an active supporter of Aliaksandar Milinkievich in 2006.

- In the early 2010 coordinators of the civil campaign European Belarus had a meeting dedicated to the presidential elections. The majority of the coordinators said that they didn’t want to work for a third party anymore risking being deceived and abandoned at any moment. Everyone agreed that Andrei Sannikov would be the best candidate for Belarus.

Before that day mass rallies were our special skills. Since 1997, we have either organized or assisted in most of the opposition rallies. And so we made the decision to directly participate in the presidential campaign with our own candidate.

Many malevolent people anticipated our fiasco. But we believed in our powers and our candidate. During many years our leaders and I studied the experience of election campaigns in different countries, the US, Russia, Switzerland, Poland, Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine. Coordinators of the legendary youth movement Zubr made the nucleus of our team. Everyone had experience from the Resistance and most courageous non-violent protest rallies, could work in the underground and even had been prisoners. Some of the leading Belarusian political consultants who previously had worked for Russian democrats during the recent elections there were also invited to join us. And the most important was that Andrei Sannikov, who, in my view, was the strongest presidential candidate Belarus has had since Gianadz Karpienka, was taking part in the elections.

Stanislau Shushkievich and other significant individuals of the Belarusian politics supported Andrei. There were many new names on his team. He was supported by the patriotic business. And the most important thing – Sannikov had the people’s support. We won the elections. Those who claimed that their participation in all local elections and elections to the “chamber” was a mere training before the presidential elections simply, failed. The majority of the ten candidates couldn’t gather enough signatures. And at the voting polls, the very Rygor Kastusiou, the representative of the Belarusian People’s Front who got Milinkevich’s support, got only one vote out of 1000, while Sannikov got as many as Lukashenka, 200-300 votes.

Today some people say that the Belarusian opposition should use Navalny’s experience! Navalny is just a boy. He even failed to encourage voters to come to the polls and 70 percent of Moscow residents ignored the elections where he was a candidate.

I admire the courage of presidential candidates in Belarus who joined not an election campaign but a war. But the democratic candidate that won the race was Sannikov. He made it to the second round where he would obviously win as well. Voters know it, Lukashenka knows it, and international leaders recognized this as fact. But someone is eager to forget it as soon as possible.

I am proud to have participated in this campaign, to have been a part of the Square. It was dedicated to our friend and fellow Aleg Biabienin, murdered before the elections.

- We have already reported about the tortures that you and other political prisoners had to endure in jail. How has the time in jail changed you?

- It has become harder to live, because one of the aims of the powers, to destroy my health, was successfully achieved. In prison, neurosurgical issues make a huge difference.

It may seem as prison is the place mostly inhabited by unpleasant people, but when you get there you realize why Jesus Christ addressed sinners. In prison, many biblical truths reveal their nature. You can see people showing their best qualities, sometimes even endangering their lives, health or risking prolonged term, for the sake of their friends and their principles. You can see the God’s spark in most different people. But would I agree to go through this again? No, just as any other sane person.

I am grateful to everyone who helped me to survive the time in and after the prison. I am grateful to Poland for the support that it gives me and other Belarusians.

- I have recently heard a leader one of the opposition parties saying that ”real Inidians of Belarus have been cut out”. Zianon Pazniak had to emigrate back in 1996. Gianadz Karpienka, Viktar Ganchar, Yury Zakharanka were murdered. You and Andrei Sannikov also had to flee after you were released from prison. Mikalai Statkievich, Mikalai Autukhovich, Ales Bialiatski and others are in prison. What is the potential of the opposition inside the country and abroad?

- I have never divided the opposition in people who live in the country and people who live abroad. Emigrants have been presidents in the Baltic countries (and still are in Estonia), our democratic neighbors – Valdis Adamkus, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Toomas Ilves.

Obviously, the democratic opposition has been affected when so many leaders have been thrown to prison. We both know what was happening there, what they wanted from us. It was the first time the powers have treated all opposition leaders in such an abominable manner. Through tortures and pressure upon their families, the powers tried to force them cooperate with the KGB. Some had to sign papers on cooperation, but upon the release they told the truth about what had happened in the KGB isolation cell. Some of the people were sentenced to actual prison term. Some of them work under scrutiny. It was completely impossible to just leave the KGB prison. And although women were the only exception, you, Natallia, had to flee the country.

But the situation is not hopeless. On the one hand, 19 years of dictatorship is a tragedy, on the other, it is our strength, we have a vast experience of fighting the dictatorship, we have international connections. The dictator failed to break us - media, politicians or the youth. He failed to destroy the Belarusian will and aspiration to independence, and he definitely failed to destroy the European orientation of Belarus.

Moreover, Russia has no resources left to provide the same support of the dictatorship. It is evident that Putin has made up his mind to replace Lukashenka with someone else. But he can no longer manipulate the Belarusians.

- What are your plans for the coming 50 years?

- I will not be comfortable with myself until Belarus is free. It remains the main goal of my life.

I know that we defeated the dictatorship in 2010. What we see today is a phantom, an illusion. There is no dictatorship anymore. I can fell that changes will come very soon, but they need help. As a friend of mine used to say, history is being made today, history is being made by us.