What did actually happen on March 25?
Coordinator of European Belarus civil campaign Zmitser Bandarenka told in the interview to Charter97.org.
- The authorities have been suffering schizophrenia in recent months. On the one hand, the decree on "digital economy" is adopted and the entire ministry is established, but the largest independent website "Charter-97" is blocked. The concert dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Belarusian People's Republic (BPR) is authorized, and meanwhile hundreds of people are arrested on March 25. What is going on?
- It usually happens when the economic state does not give an opportunity to rule the country as the rule got used to. A similar situation, also called schizophrenia, was at the time of Mikhail Gorbachev, when laws on cooperation and unearned income were simultaneously passed. The same happened with the shift of power in the countries of the former socialist camp.
It means that regimes miss the economic opportunity to maintain living standards at the previous level. It beares contradictions among the ruling group, where representatives of various groups, clans give different pieces of advice. They are often conflicting. It causes more problems; the regime tries to use all pieces of advice at once. As a result, we see what it can lead to.
The most important thing is that the regime urgently needs money, new technologies. The country suffers demographic catastrophe. Even according to official data on labour resources, it can be considered that more than a million Belarusians work abroad, that is, not 9 million 300 thousand people really live in the country, but eight million.
The number of pensioners is increasing. To the authorities' regret they cannot go to other countries, and they need pensions paid out from salaries of employees the number of which is decreasing. Hence, the disability to operate under old principles arises and, accordingly, attempts are made to somehow resolve the tangle of concerns.
- What now is happening in the opposition? Why are the one beaten, arrested, and the other have a "green light" and the concert near the Opera House?
- There is nothing surprising occurs in the opposition. It's typical both for democratic and non-democratic states. Points of view differ. It's a norm for democratic states with their variety of ideological streams: liberalism, socialism, social democratic ideas, conservatism. It has always existed.
At the same time dictatorships often turn to special services, which break the will of people and recruit them in different ways. They use blackmail, violence, threats. The fact is that lin Belarus ike under other dictatorships some part of the opposition and media operates under control. The authorities try to influence the situation in the opposition movement through their agents.
- There are a lot of talks about the creation of the so-called "concert opposition". Why does the regime need it?
- Special services want there were no people capable of heading protests during a critical situation. the controlled opposition is required also not to let mass protests in the country.
- Can we compare the situation in Belarus with one in late 1980s and early 1990 in post-socialist states?
- We can. The situation for Moscow is much worse now than at the time of Perestroika. At that time the Soviet Union's economy took the second position in the world. The share of the Soviet economy was 10-13 percent of world GDP. Today the Russian Federation has GDP of about 1.5 trillion dollars and its share in the world economy is insignificant - 1.8 percent. GDP of the European Union is 18 trillion dollars. US GDP is more than 17 trillion dollars. China's GDP is 10 trillion dollars. Plus, Japan with its GDP of about 3 trillion dollars.
In this regard, Russia's economic influence is much less than this of the USSR. From the economic point of view, the crisis in Russia today is much broader than the crisisof those times in the USSR. Accordingly, the state of the economy of the same Belarus, when compared, for example, with the GDR, is also poor. The standard of living in the GDR was then much higher than one now in Belarus. In the GDR GDP per capita was $12.5 thousand in 1989. In Belarus it equals to $5.5 thousand now.
- What do you think happened on March 25 and what could you say about it?
- It was not clear what's going on until the evening of March 25. The release of BNC leaders and dozens of other Belarusians was absolutely unexpected. But this event was the most important while assesment of Freedom Day in Belarus. It was clear that the opposition's rally would take place anyway. And so they decided to use the centenary of the proclamation of the Belarusian People's Republic in their own interests.
It is now clear that there was a reason for Makei's visit to Great Britain on March 26, and the regime had a special operation on March 25 prepared beforehand; it included the blocking of Charter97.org and belaruspartisan.org in Belarus, the opening of criminal cases against popular video bloggers and increased pressure on activists of the Independent REP Trade Union.
In my view, the main goal was a habitual diddling out of the loan, this time in the UK. It was served like Lukashenka had almost become the Belarusian nationalist and wanted to break away from Putin. But Belarusian siloviki crassed almost everything with their brutal and sadistic actions.
The sensational release of Belarusian leaders occured also because of Makei's business trip to the UK. After the most mass deportation of Russian spy diplomats from Western countries, the role of Lukashenka's regime in representing Russia's interests has increased even more: These are Belarusian embassies that will carry out those functions of deported officers of the GRU and the Foreign Intelligence Service of Russia. At the same time the volume of mutual smuggling to compensate for counter trade sanctions of Russia and the West should significantly increase through Belarus. To do this, Lukashenka's regime should have minimal relations with NATO countries. And the Belarusian siloviki nearly ruined such a necessary Makei's visit for Belarus and the Kremlin.
Therefore, it is quite possible that the order to release the Belarusian opposition members originated from Moscow. Thus, Freedom Day became an important factor in international politics.
- You mentioned actions of the siloviki. Are there different groups within Lukashenka's regime?
- I would point out three groups in Belarus today. First, the Family is Lukashenka, his relatives and the inner circle. Lukashenka is the only oligarch in Belarus. The family owns tens of billions of dollars.
The second group is officials, businessmen, parts of moderate siloviki of higher rank who see the true picture, care about the future of their children and grandchildren. They want their homes, money, property, businesses to remain by any measure. They want to live the life of those in Poland, Ukraine or Lithuania. They want changes to come and the country to follow the European path. These people also have their own interests and understand that if the power changes, they will be in the black.
There is the third group. It is very specific. Of course, there were siloviki in the Soviet Union, who were against Perestroika, the civilized way of development, the independence of Soviet republics.
However, now they can be simply called creeps. Their brains are damaged with Russian propaganda. They dream of shooting, putting pressure, imprisoning, robbing and redistributing. Current LPR and DPR are an example to them. They are fans of Givi and Motorola, try on this role. They think this way - we are cool guys, give us a sign and we will support Putin, clean up this opposition and make this great "mess" come true. This group hates and despises the ruling class, officials. Their idol is Putin, not Lukashenka. To retain power, the Belarusian dictator leave some businessmen, officials, directors of enterprises at the mercy of them. Representatives of the "creeps in power" take it out on imprisoned "officials" and businessmen".
These three mentioned groups have different interests, which determine their behavior.
Lukashenka and the Family are not interested in changes, that want the status quo to remain. But more advanced officials and representatives in the Foreign Ministry say that it requires money, Western credits and technologies, and we have to play democracy. As a result, Lukashenka has to take the steps we earlier called schizophrenic. And law enforcement representatives itch.
- What do events of March 25 mean for the opposition?
- I believe that the goals the BNC set have been almost completely reached. There was a large-scale festive rally on the 10th anniversary of BPR. World media focused on brutal actions of the Belarusian police while covering events in Belarus. To gain the Western credit so needed to the regime, special services had to openly smoke out their agents in the opposition and "independent" media. According to Lukashenka and his statement to ignore recommendations of the EU and the USA, one can conclude that no sufficient western credit was granted.
True Belarusian leaders proved their strength for the second year in a row. Their arrest and the release have become the factor in a great international game. Courage of Belarusians ruined the special operation of the Belarusian authorities "a wolf in sheep's clothing" and showed their will to Independence to the whole world.