Lukashenka should be replaced as soon as possible.
Summing up the results of 2018, the Charter97.org talked to a well-known blogger from Brest, one of the leaders of protests against the battery plant, the national prize winner in for human rights protection, Siarhei Pyatrukhin.
- Let's start with positive things. How did you find you that you're a prize winner?
- My friends told me and shared links on your website. I knew it five minutes after the article was released.
- What were your first thoughts?
- You know, "Charter-97" is a well-known resource read by many people and it has a great influence on the situation in Belarus. That's why I was very pleased to know that I was the winner.
- You won the prize for "courage in arts" and "personal courage". Do you consider yourself brave?
- It's hard for me to think about it... I have never thought about it. All I know is that I never ran away when we were walking with friends and someone was bothering us. I can't say I was some kind of fighter, but I always stood behind my friends until the end.
- And what do you think is the bravest thing you've done?
- I once saved a little boy in Hrodna. That was years ago. The boy ran across the road, right under the truck wheels. I don't know how it would have ended, but I grabbed him by the collar and pulled him off the roadway. His father turned pale when he saw what was going on. I still rememberit, as well as the boy and his father.
- Let's talk about courage of your compatriots. On 31 December in Brest, despite the risk of being detained, 150 people came to the central square. And the action against the battery plant has become one of the longest in Belarus. What is the secret of persistence and courage of Brest citizens?
- I think this protest has become uncommon for our country. First it was like an environmental one, and a year ago many of its active participants said that they were "out of politics". Even when Aliaksandr Kabanau and I were invited to the action, some were against it because we were "opposition members".
But in the course of time Brest citizens realized that everything is politics in our country, and turned to politics. Those people who go to the square in Brest every Sunday can be the paradigm of courage.
Many of them have already experienced repressions of the authorities. Tatstsyana Sitnikava, for example, lost her job. Dzmitry Bekalyuk and Demyan Lepesevich are constantly pressed by the FID (Financial Investigation Department). The authorities practice various Stalin-Beria methods.
But working people continue to come to the square without fear of losing their jobs. Moreover, they are increasingly convinced of their rights.
A special role belongs to trials, including those of Aliaksandr Kabanau and me. Successful middle-class people, engineers and managers who raised their money with their minds and built houses in an environment-friendly area witnessed horror and absurdity of the system.
First they said: "We will win the trial and that's it". But it turned out that lawlessness take the floor in court. And after losing the trial, they realized that other methods to fight the system should be used.
And when people saw that 40 thousand signatures against the battery plant were just put aside, all illusions faded away.
- What other significant events, in your opinion, happened in the country in 2018?
- There were many interesting events, but I was impressed by several things.
The first is the lie of Minister Andrei Khudyk, when only our initiative group was taken away all devices at the meeting. Khudyk promised he would provide the record of the meeting. It was very important: if we could upload the record on the Internet, everyone would see what irresponsible, unprincipled, unprofessional and uneducated officials are.
It would be a complete self-revelation of power. That's why the record was not provided. And the "excuse" just smashed them. Do you know what they said? "The battery was low". And it has turned into a meme. I think it was the first time in the histiry when so many ministers сocked up.
What does it all mean? What kind of officials are they?
The second thing I remember is the speech of the Minister of Internal Affairs Ihar Shunevich. He always gives some weird information reason, I think, on purpose. His phrase about "sensitive policemen who are hurt" is something "great".
Believe me, I have had a lot of experience with the police this year. There are only few of policemen described by the minister. And policemen are extremely unhappy people who can't realize their potential, and they go to the police and obey criminal orders of their superiors.
I also remember the Kuropaty protest. Though I was there only once, I was impressed by the spirit of its defenders.
I'd like to point at the tragic story of Svyatlana Korzhich: it described relations in the army. The mother lost her only son, and she was awarded several hundred dollars as compensation. And sergeant became scape goats. Although everyone knows that sergeants do what officers allow.
And of course, I would like to point the growing pressure on independent media. It affected both bloggers and online media. I've been arraigned for six months. Maksim Filippovich is constantly arrested, and the authorities have also launched a campaign against Stepan Svetlov (NEXTA). Charter-97 is blocked so that people could receive less reliable information; Belsat journalists are constantly fined. The situation with independent media is an major symptom of 2018.
- In this situation, you have recorded an alternative address to the Belarusians. What would you like to say?
- I think that Lukashenka's longstanding reign in Belarus is illegal. He has to resign. Lukashenka's speeches turned into a "ground-hog day": this year has been a difficult one, but it is necessary to chin up, and "enemies" are to blame. There should be an alternative message - there should be someone else on Lukashenka's place.
It does not mean that I can be an alternative, I am a blogger, not a politician, but I am sure that our country needs change.
The economy needs a market direction. But the main thing is that it is time to change the system, where officials have been robbing people, taking away money, apartments, businesses, and imprisoning entrepreneurs. There are a lot of people like Knyrovich and former owner of Motovelo Muravyou, we just know about the most famous names. It will be a bad end of the story for the authorities.
The turning point has been reached by people. Nobody says that entrepreneurs want to profit. Enough time has passed for people to understand what terrible things are happening in the country and who is to blame for them.
That's why Lukashenka should be replaced as soon as possible.
- Who, in your opinion, will become an alternative to Lukashenka and how will changes happen?
- I am against blood and violence. But I can see that the authorities have been committing lawlessness against all people. There is a small example: the policeman who took away apartments in Brest has recently been jailed. This example describes the situation in the country.
To hide their crimes, many people won't give up their power so easily. They know that this time it won't be like in the 1990s: there will be lustration and a tough approach. That's why there are scape goats among the police and officials.
I don't know how the change of power will happen. But the will to changes is maturing in society.
Who will be an alternative? I believe that Pavel Sevyarynets can play this role. He is honest, educated and clever person.
But, in my opinion, he should be in charge only during the transition period to put things in order, to be an example of decent, fair policy. I know he will not take bribes. He will take care about the future of the nation and act in accordance with conscience.
- What do you think may happen to Belarus this year?
- I did not like make any predictions. But I see that the yoke of unemployment and lack of money is oppressing the Belarusians. I can't say when patience runs dry.
But I want to wish our people to think thoroughly. I wish the same to those in power. If there are those who haven't had time to disgrace themselves, you'd better think about the future, about an inevitable lustration. And it will happen for sure.
I also wish our people to be more active in planning their lives. I wish to be less indifferent and more aware that we can run our own country. And if the process starts, it won't stop.
Some people wonder what they can do. Actually, a lot depends on us. And those who fight till the end succeed. I wish our people solidarity this year.