18 November 2018, Sunday, 9:57
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Andrei Sannikov: Autocephaly Is Future Of Belarus

6
ANDREI SANNIKOV

The Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church is taking place in Minsk de facto illegally.

According to the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Belarusian Orthodox churches are no longer subordinate to Moscow, the decision of the ROC Synod in Minsk will be unlawful, leader of the European Belarus civil campaign, former Deputy MFA of Belarus Andrei Sannikov said in an interview to the ''Polish Radio''.

He also warned there was a growing threat for Belarus from Russia. Putin has set an ultimatum to Lukashenka, while the latter is trying to trade with him, and that is why those monthly meetings continue to take place, Andrei Sannikov notes. He is convinced that Belarus will return its independence and then try to obtain autocephaly.

Former presidential candidate in Belarus Andrei Sannikov noted in the conversation with the ''Polish Radio'' that granting an autocephaly for Ukraine was a blow against the Kremlin's imperial policy, as well as potentially dangerous moment for Belarus, as the Kremlin might want revenge particularly here.

- We are in a dangerous situation. Vladimir Putin's rating is falling, he is irreversably losing Ukraine, and Belarus always appeared a victim whenever Russia was defeated in its imperialistic ambitions, - Sannikov says. - Lukashenka is trying to soft-talk Putin, saying that Mahiliou ''is rather a Russian city than Belarusian.'' This is a disgrace for us.

The former opposition presidential candidate said that another humiliation of the Belarusian believers is the observation conducted by immoral imperialists from Russia, like metropolitan Pavel.

Also, the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, organized in Minsk at present time, is actually illegal as the 17th century document about the supremacy of Moscow over the Kyiv metropole (the whole territory of the modern Belarus was a part thereof back then) was abolished. The diplomat also underlines that, due to this reason, the decisions of the mentioned Synod will also be illegal.

- Recently, the rulers of Belarus and Russia Aliaksandr Lukashenka and Vladimir Putin have met on a monthly basis. We have seen this since spring. On Friday, there was a meeting in Mahiliou, and there will be two more conversations by the end of the year. What is going on in Belarus? What does it mean? What are the perspectives of the Belarus-Russia relations? How do you assess the situation as the former presidential candidate and former Deputy Foreign Minister?

- Lukashenka remains in a difficult economic situation. It got to the point where the economy practically does not function, and the dictator refuses to carry out reforms. It is for this reason that the International Monetary Fund does not give so much needed loans to it. Therefore, once again Lukashenka is trying to save himself with the help of Russia.

Once again, his behavior shows that the main goal for the dictator is to preserve power. He is looking for help in this in the Kremlin. Many analysts paid attention to the fact that now Lukashenka allegedly supports the statehood of Belarus, allegedly draws attention to the national culture, self-consciousness. And now it all turned out to be an absolutely unrealizable dream. I never believed in it and do not know who would believe in it in Belarus, especially from the opposition and independent political scientists. In order to flatter Putin, Lukashenka said at the Forum of the Regions that Mahiliou, a Belarusian city, is ''rather Russian''. Such behavior of the ''head of state'' is a shame. His words confirm that Lukashenka will not establish any normal relations with the West, he will never dare to conduct any political reforms and will be ready to sell Belarus to Russia in pieces to the very end. This is a very dangerous situation for us and for Europe. It is unfortunate that they do not understand this in Brussels.

- What should we expect in the near future? As we have noted, the recent meetings between Lukashenka and Putin are held very often. On the one hand, we have economic pressure, as Russia stopped exporting petroleum products to Belarus, on the other hand, we see the ''carrot'', as the credit tranche was transferred ($ 200 million), moreover, over $ 260 million come from the calculations of customs duties and exports, and a loan to refinance the loan (630 million dollars) is being negotiated.

- Russia is putting pressure on Minsk. The Kremlin wants to completely control Belarus. Already, it controls most of the strategic resources. Through the supply of crude oil, Moscow controls the energy sector of Belarus, Russia also owns gas pipelines. The Kremlin wants to take over other enterprises - it is interested in the potash fertilizer sector, the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant, the only plant that produces tractors for intercontinental missiles like Topol and Yars. It remains interested in the chemical industry as well.

Whatever Russia might demand today - Lukashenka does not agree to this. Probably, the ultimatum was put in Sochi, where the meeting was especially long. Now Putin does not give him so much time, their meetings last 20-30 minutes. It seems that Lukashenka is trying to bargain with him. I think that this is about seizing Belarusian national wealth in order to fully control both Lukashenka and Belarus. Putin is leading a war in Ukraine, so Lukashenka may appear too expensive for him, although, in general, he will continue to help the Belarusian ruler.

Unfortunately, the threat of loss of independence is also very serious, including for the reason that Russia already has experience of the Crimea, Donbas, and there is also an agreement on the so-called ''union stat''. Neither Europe nor the United States understands this situation.

- Recently, the rating of Vladimir Putin has dropped in Russia. There is talk of the fact that now he will try to reverse this trend, earlier in such moments the Kremlin resorted to military conflicts. Another opinion voiced by the Center for Eastern European Studies is the potential mobilization of Russians on the basis of Orthodoxy and its defense. An attempt to focus on autocephaly. What do you think of this?

- The events occurring around the Ukrainian church have a very important character. For the independence of Ukraine, they are very important. I would say that this event is a state-forming, state-creating one. When Ukraine gets an autocephaly, it will mean that there is no return to the post-Soviet space controlled by the Kremlin. This is extremely important for us. Since this is the road that independent Belarus will take in the future.

But at the same time - it is really a very insecure situation. It is not without reason that the Russian Orthodox Church holds its Synod in Minsk. It must be remembered that when the position of Russia in the imperial aspect becomes more complicated, Belarus becomes a victim. This is not the first time and not only incident during the reign of Putin. I constantly recall when in 1996 President Boris Yeltsin wanted to raise his rating before the elections and came to Belarus to start a conversation with Lukashenka about creating a so-called ''union state''.

It is true that Putin may try to use Belarus to increase his popularity. However, if he decides to go through the destruction of the independence of our state, he will fall into the same trap as with the Crimea. We see that the Crimea brought a very short-term effect. At first, people were happy, but Putin put the whole country under the blow of sanctions. I will add that Lukashenka in Belarus for many years has not had any support.

- The Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church in Minsk is very symbolic. What does it mean? Do the Russians want to put their ''we are at home here'' message clearly?

- Metropolitan Pavel is the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church in Belarus. This is a severe insult for Belarusians, as he is a Russian sent here from Ryazan. He is an imperialist and despises Belarusians. When he was in Russia yet, he said that if the West continues putting pressure on the Kremlin, it will be possible to ''turn the Chernobyl tap on''. His words had great resonance then. This is how he called for the use of nuclear weapons. He also said that the lives of the Russian people didn't mean a lot for them. Metropolitan Pavel is a cynical imperial clergyman, which is confirmed by his other statements. This insults the feelings of Belarusians. The Belarusian Orthodox Church is not only under the authority of the immoral Russian patriarchs from Moscow, but also the immoral Russian metropolitan in Minsk.

If you look at where services are held on Sunday, then these are not Orthodox, but Catholic and Protestant churches. In this way, people show their attitude towards Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Pavel.

The Synod in Minsk should show that Belarus is still under the control of the Russian patriarchate. They do not doubt it. Russia wants to show that it has allies in the war with Ukraine.

Such humiliation is possible only for the reason that there is the Lukashenka regime in Belarus.

- It is noted that if the Ecumenical Patriarch withdrew the document of the late 17th century, which gave Moscow the right to manage the Kyiv metropole, as well as the churches located in the territory of modern Belarus, this means that Belarus is no longer the territory of the Moscow Patriarchate. ''The Moscow Patriarchate organizes its synod in Minsk in order to demonstrate once again that it still rules here,'' says Radio Liberty journalist Valer Kalinouski.

Is this a missed opportunity for Belarus? Can it now apply for autocephaly? Is there a chance for autocephaly in Belarus?

- Indeed, Deacon Andrei Kuraev spoke about this: if the patriarchal document of 1868 on the transition of the Kyiv metropole to Moscow authority was recalled, this also applies to Belarus, since in the 17th century the Commonwealth and the Kyiv metropole included the entire territory of the modern Belarus.

In fact, even the venue of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church is illegal. This means that his decisions will be wrongful in the light of secular and ecclesiastical law.

Belarus has not lost a chance for autocephaly. Today, it is under the occupation of the pro-Kremlin regime in the secular sphere and the Moscow Patriarchate, if we talk about the church sphere.

While Lukashenka is at power, unfortunately, the talks about autocephaly for the Orthodox church of Belarus do not make sense. After all, he defends the interests of the Kremlin. After Lukashenka, we will follow the footsteps of Ukraine, whom we sincerely wish to stand firm and win.

- The website Charter97.org has had certain problems recently. At the beginning of the year, the blocking of the portal on the territory of Belarus began. The problems of financing and assistance from the West added up to this.

And the website Charter97.org performs a very important role - this is one of the few media sources that provides truthful information to Belarusians not only about the situation in Belarus, but also in Russia, Ukraine, and serves as an antidote to the Russian propaganda. Where do such problems with the recognition in the West come from?

- Recently, the Western funds seem unable to cope with the confrontation of the Russian propaganda, disinformation, disclosure of fakes. The finance from the funds that must resist Kremlin propaganda, thanks to the work of the special services of Belarus and Russia, often fall into the hands of the same special services, or their outposts.

The website Сharter97.org has a lot of readers, probably because the publication adheres to a principled position. It is for this reason that the task of the Russian and Belarusian secret services is to destroy the Charter97.org website. It seems to me that this is the reason why this popular portal has broader problems.

Charter-97 editor-in-chief Natallia Radzina has given notice of the threat to the information resource’s work because of dramatic reduction in in funding.

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