16 February 2019, Saturday, 19:37
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Jauhen Afnahel: Lukashenka Himself Spoiled the Game

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Jauhen Afnahel

No credits are available after brutal arrests on Freedom Day.

One of the leaders of the Belarusian National Congress (BNC) Jauhen Afnahel stated that in the interview to Charter97.org when commenting on mass arrests on the eve of Freedom Day in Belarus.

- The centenary of BPR is a significant date. Mikalai Statkevich called the events connected with it "the moment of truth". And how do you comment on what happened on Freedom Day in Minsk and across the country?

- Many people have already spoken on this topic, so I will focus on several important things.

First. From the very beginning the Belarusian National Congress advocated for the celebration of Freedom Day in the form of a demonstration and a concert and was the initiator of this format. Let me remind you that those who are now called "concert opposition" did not plan any street actions at all. Therefore, it was very eloquent to see the artificial opposition of supporters of various events dedicated to the centenary of BPR.

Second. In January we said that the authorities would make concessions and allow to celebrate Freedom Day in the center of Minsk. Many did not believe us, but in fact it happened.

Another issue is that much more could have been achieved. If leaders of registered parties and movements had not run to offices of officials at their first whistle, the authorities would have authorized both the concert and a procession. The ability to calculate opponent's actions, negotiate and defend a position is important for any politician. One more time we got convinced that only few are capable of it.

Third. A great number of siloviki was mobolized against people who gathered on Freedom Day. The house of every activist was constantly supervised by riot policemen and special services. They disconnected the Internet and telephone communications, cut wheels in cars, knocked out doors, threatened families.

Nevertheless, the authorities got stuck anyway. At first people on Yakub Kolas Square awakened deep nightmares of Lukashenka, which he's been still dreaming after the Square 2010. Then thousands of participants with national flags chanting "Long Live Belarus!" at the concert at the Opera House enhanced a headache. Well, as for new loans, most likely none will be granted after shots made it Minsk. Lukashenka himself spoiled the game "March 25".

- On March 23 you were arrested for 10 days, but on March 25 you were released without any explanations. Why?

- When we stepped into the corridor, I said that we would be released with my colleagues. This step was predictable before the visit of Makei to London, considering an inadequate behavior of siloviki a few hours before. One should remember concerns about possible march to the Akrestsina to demand the release of political prisoners (the result of Freedom Day in 2006).

Our early release is the result of the pressure on the regime. And we should keep on doing it. Together we must fight for the release of Dzmitry Palienka, Svyataslau Baranovich and other political prisoners, for cessation of repressions against media, for abolition of the blocking of "Charter-97". It can be done.

- What conclusions can be made after the celebration of the centenary of BPR?

- The main thing is that the authorities still either fail to recognize threats the country faces, or they are preparing to surrender the state. During the year the opposition repeatedly offered negotiations to overcome the crisis. The Belarusian National Congress initiated the joint celebration of the centenary of the restoration of independence. So far, the regime responds with repressions against the real opposition and attempts to create its own, puppet opposition.

It is still a great problem that the majority of Belarusians, including adherents to changes, are not ready to protect the country in case of a threat. Just take a look at the neighbouring Ukraine. The front line is not language-based, as many believe. The offensive of the occupation forces was stopped by ordinary inhabitants, where thousands of marches had been held in support of the unity of the country. Today peaceful street actions are inextricably linked to a peaceful life tomorrow.

These are main challenges both for the Belarusian authorities and the opposition. If we find no answer to them, then the next Freedom Days we may celebrate, perhaps, in another country, and to seek permission to hold concerts from the occupation authorities.