People manifest themself at critical moments.
This week the authorities have defined the "sponger-service list". The Council of Ministers determined that housing and utility services (heating, hot water supply and gas) will be subject to full payment. How much is it reasonable, after all, autumn and winter rent bills cause indignation? Coordinator of the European Belarus civil campaign, one of the leaders of the Belarusian National Congress (BNC) Jauhen Afnahel answers questions of Charter97.org.
- It's most likely they have no other way; they failed to find new sources of money. The external source of the budget replenishment - the Russian support - is almost exausted. Putin needs means; after all, the Russian economy is actually transferred to the military track. I think that Lukashenka has already got the signal from Moscow: seek money on your own. And he tries to do it begging for loans in the west and inventing new exactions within the country.
I think the major part of the dictator's inner circle is aware of consequences. But they hardly keep their master informed, they do not want to hurt his psyche. Officials and household analysts will not tell him that people hate him and a small spark may be enough to make people take the streets. That's why they muzzle independent journalists, block "Charter-97", adopt draconian amendments to the "Law on Mass Media", hold the campaign to discredit the opposition, put new political opponents behind bars. The regime makes its best to restrain protests.
Yes, one must admit that such steps damage democratic forces, independent media and the country's safety. But now apart from journalists and the opposition, all Belarusians pose the threat to the authorities. As soon as patience of Belarusians runs dry, the dictator will have to face the storm. It's not possible to stop it with decrees and restraints.
- Journalists summed up that according to the new decree, spongers are subject to payment of 700 rubles, which greatly exceeds the sum under the previous decree. What will be the reaction when the time comes?
- People always manifest themselves at critical moments. Last summer I was to Armenia, traveled all over the country; there were no signs of future changes. The major part of those I talked to said common phrases: "it's good to have a job", "we can survive", "the life of others is even worse", "we do not want a war", "we do not want the Ukraine's scenario" and so on. The same was written both by the state-owned and independent media. No one could even imagine a possibility of large-scale protests. But the moment of truth came and everything drastically changed.
No one can predict actions of Belarusians. Everyone, even thin supporters of Lukashenka, knows that it's inevitable and it is coming. The "decree on spongers" or something else may become a signal. The storm is not a phenomenon one can plan or predict. One can only feel its imminence and be ready for it.
- Lukashenka used to like to raise the "sponger" issue. But he bypassed it in his last message to "the people and the Parliament". What is a reason? Does the government itself believe it can collect the new "sponger" tax?
-The decree will not work in any case. Already now on social networks Belarusians seek loopholes to avoid the tax. One should be aware that the authorities do not waste the time as well. They will come up with new ways to skim money from people and will stop only when we can take a stand.
Everything's clear with Lukashenka's silence on this issue. It is psychologically hard to talk about memories which hurt you. The "sponger issue" reminds him of the spring-2017, of tens of thousands of people in the streets, of the slogan "That'll do!", of enormous means spent on suppression of protests, and of his defeat. Lukashenka suffers the trauma caused by the defeat. Of course, he wants to forget it as soon as possible. I don't think that we will.