It’s not just ice hockey that Lukashenka loses at.
Coordinator of the European Belarus civil campaign Maxim Viniarski told this in an interview for Charter97.org, commenting upon the situation in the country:
- It was in the morning on Wednesday, May 12 that you went out of jail after the 12-day administrative arrest for the solidarity with political prisoners and the Freedom Day celebration. What was memorable about this yet another stay in the Akrestsin street detention center?
- In the Akrestsin Street detention center they put me in a small cell designed for two inmates.
I was banned from using pen and paper, just like during the previous arrests. It can be understood – I could have filed a written complaint against them.
As for the innovations, there were daily searches with no reason explained. During those searches, police officers demonstratively threw all my books on the floor. I still cannot understand why they did it, they explained nothing to me.
The silence game from the side of the detention center administration was, I believe, a method of psychological pressure. They did not explain why they stamped the books though. They stubbornly kept silence in response to any of my questions, like, whether they would release me on May 5, when the term imposed by the court expired. Then, when the arrest was prolonged, the officers on duty refused to tell me whether I would be released on May 11 – they claimed it was “service secret”. Herein, they explained willingly to the “non-political” detainees when they would be released, even without the latter asking them.
This is something new, a psychological game, the authorities are trying to show that they are becoming a sort of a “collective Orwell” and control everything, while we can only guess what they are plotting against us.
- How do ordinary people, who shared the cell with you, feel the situation in the country? 12 days is quite a long term, what did you talk about?
- There was a guy with us who used to serve criminal terms. He had something to compare. So, he said, if they reinforced the guard, the conditions would be like the ones of the “death convicts”. He was right – they forced us to put our hands on the wall when we walked out of the cell, palms up; and they also made us band our arms behind the back when walking. The authorities are becoming more and more paranoid. The prison guards are losing their mind because of impunity.
They convoy an administrative detainee for a meeting with the lawyer – and close the detainee in a metal cage. Why? Do they really think someone would throw at the lawyer, who only came for a signature under the appeal against the unlawful sentence?
As for the inmates talks, this is a separate issue. It was rarely when I heard so many times that Lukashenka’s affairs are worse than ever. This is something everyone is talking about. The people are convinced: it won’t be better until the power changes. There are no those who are sure everything is “normal” even among the homeless.
Another popular topic is the police lawlessness in Belarus. Even those who admit they broke the law can prove that the police broke it to an even greater extent. But the main point remains: God saves you from catching the sight of the police and the authorities, the “collective Orwell”. There was a football fan with us, who got into the category “extremists” in their database. As soon as something happens in the country, he goes to jail on a regular basis.
- You spent twice as much time as the activists detained together with you on April 26. How would you explain such “special attitude” to you?
- Firstly, it was an attempt to isolate me on the eve of May 1, when independent trade unions held a rally for workers' rights.
Secondly, I believe that the added six days was the personal revenge of the head of the detention center Mr. Sakalouski. Most likely, due to the fact that I repeatedly wrote complaints about the confinement conditions. The behavior of the duty jailers also speaks in favor of this version: they did not quite understand why I should not be released on May 5. If the order comes from the very "top", then they behave differently, with the awareness of the importance of the duty that is being fulfilled. And this time it was clear that this is petty, mean personal revenge of a small boss. Causing petty damage is another feature of today's government, apart from the desire to control everything.
However, worrying about some extra five days is not for me, with my experience of administrative detentions. They will not be able to catch me as a dare either: I have already developed immunity to minor dirty tricks.
- While you were at the Akrestsin Street detention center, the leaders of the REP trade union were officially charged under the article which envisages imprisonment for up to 7 years. Is there any connection between the brutal detentions on March 25, the arrests after the April 26 action and the decision in the trade unions case?
- Of course, there is such a connection. Lukashenka loses not only in hockey. Perhaps even for his top officials it became evident that their common game is up: the economic experiments failed, and for those "overpowered" there is nothing more terrible than a revolution on a "hungry stomach". Only the revolution of dignity, like Ukrainian or Armenian, causes greater fears in them. It is not in vain that the Armenian theme did not disappear from the agenda during the "message" of the dictator to the people and to the "parliament".
I want to remind you, with what facial expressions the people from the closest circles of Lukashenka listened to his annual "ventriloquism". It was an expression of desperate anguish, it seemed that somebody would break, jump off their seat, screaming "Boss, the game is up!". And then, when the stream of abstractions divorced from reality started flowing from the main rostrum, it seemed that everyone was desperately eyeing the space around for some superman, a kind magician who would turn off that husky voice once and for all - and they could wake up as normal people, return to their families, to a meaningful life in a normal country.
I think that the ruler himself, if he has not yet immersed himself, figuratively speaking, in an underground bunker, feels that everything is going wrong. This is not even a situation when the throne is unsteady, this is the situation when the power battery is out. And Lukashenka has no methods for reviving cardboard decorations in the Drazdy theater of one actor. He has not learned how to do it in 24 years at power. Therefore, the old, yellowed techniques, taken from the Shunevich family dressed in the NKVD uniform, or from the archive of the building with the bust of the "iron Felix" in front of it, are used.
The dusty manuals give the dictator two recipes: "keep" and "do not let go." Therefore, the arrests of people at the peaceful rally on March 25, and the detention of me and my comrades due to the fact that on April 26 we came out with portraits of political prisoners, and the persecution of the leaders of the REP trade union are all links of the same chain. More precisely, the clinical picture of the same neurosis, which arose because of the fear of losing control over the situation and as a consequence - the power. But our famous "historian" and political instructor forgot, perhaps, the truth that should be learned in the classes on Marxism in the Mahiliou University: the basis (economy) defines the superstructure (policy). Therefore, he lost control of the situation for a long time, since this regime did not know from the very beginning from which side this mysterious "beast" called "economy" should be approached, how to "milk it". And the "beast" kicked the hapless “milkman” in the end - so that he still can not come to himself, and we are seeing the country drowning in a crisis more and more, while the authorities are drowning in the absurdity.
Only this wandering in the fog of the absurd can end quite unexpectedly for the regime. This time Lukashenka clashed with a worthy opponent: I mean the strength and solidarity of the international labor movement. International trade unions have already put forward an ultimatum to the dictator, who pretended not to have heard it. I think that if the International Labor Organization succeeds in convincing the West of the need for sanctions against a new type of the slavery regime, then it will be very serious measures.
The second serious mistake of Lukashenka is the war against independent media. The scale of international solidarity with Charter’97 has already reached the level that the topic of the last dictatorship is again on the agenda in the European Parliament.
Finally, the Belarusian authorities recently threw another banana crust under their feet, on which they could slip. I mean the reanimated Decree on "parasites" – the Decree # 1. People are already aware that this is not just a second attempt to raise money from the unemployed. The decree claims universal character and will affect almost everyone: both those who live in the same apartment and those who have relatives who have fallen into the field of sight of commissions with unlimited powers. And all citizens of the country can get into the databases collected for the implementation of the decree. And it beats, though disguised, through payment of housing and communal services, in the most painful, most bloody spot – the apartments of Belarusians. After all, our people are investing every free kapeika, by families and generations, in two things: dollars and housing. Therefore, a new decree can really become a powder keg for the government. We now live in a very interesting time. The events can begin to develop rapidly.
- How, in your opinion, is it possible to resist the attack of the authorities? Can the struggle with Decree #1 become a consolidating factor, like the protests against the Decree #3 once?
- I think that it is possible to an even greater extent that it was against the Decree #3. After all, the new decree, as I said, is more universal, and therefore more rigid, absurd and can cause more outrage. However, I do not want to make forecasts. Again, as I already said: we live in an exceptionally interesting time. Sharp turns in the society and the country can happen quite suddenly.
Therefore, it is always important to remember: on whose side you are, why do you live. To multiply the super profits of the "Drazdy clan" or for a decent future for your children? Just ask yourself this question and prepare to show responsibility when the very "interesting events" begin. And, of course, remember those glorious principles that many have learned during the years of the struggle with the dictatorship: solidarity, personal courage, activism. Do not be afraid to be on the side of truth! This is always more promising.