The Belarusian dictator defends his own money.
Andrei Sannikov, a coordinator of the European Belarus civil campaign, a presidential candidate of the Republic of Belarus in 2010 and a former political prisoner, who has been to Washington recently, said that in an interview to the Russian service of Voice of America.
– Quite serious events have just happened in Belarus – one Russian ambassador was recalled, another one was appointed, and the Russian media write that it was done in exchange for Aliaksandr Lukashenka's promises to take real steps towards integration with Russia. In your opinion, how realistic is a union of the two countries, as a result of which they will have a single leader?
– It’s not about a union of two countries. It’s about a union of two criminal gangs, one of which is in the Kremlin, and the other one – in Minsk. This has nothing to do with legal methods of creating a single state and contradicts all norms of international law. Neither Putin nor Lukashenka represents the people of either Russia or Belarus. But yes, today there is a danger that Putin, in order to stay in power, and Lukashenka for the same reason will go for it. It will be a blow to the independence of Belarus. This will not pass without a trace: firstly, I repeat once again that this is illegal, and secondly – I think that this will definitely meet resistance. God help us if it causes partisan activity on the territory of Belarus, this scenario is really undesirable. Now they come up with some options on how to maintain their power, but I think that their creativity will not last for long.
– For how long, do you think?
– It is already clear that from a certain moment the level of living in both Russia and Belarus has considerably deteriorated. Earlier it was possible to hope that fat years would continue, and oil would be expensive, that Lukashenka would receive subsidies by trading in oil products and actively getting big money both to the budget and to his own pocket, now this phase is over. This is obvious in Belarus and all these fantasies about an average salary of $ 500 have long been forgotten, as they annoyed people so much. Now the wages in the regions are 150-200 dollars per month (and it’s not easy to find a job, too), the pensions are 100-150 dollars. It is really hard to survive, you have to bend over backwards and come back to some old ways to make your living. And this is the result of Lukashenka’s management – and it is clear that all this is falling apart. But the agony can last for a long time. 25 years ago, no one could imagine that Lukashenka would stay in power for so long. And it was not only Russia and not only Putin who helped him – it began in Yeltsin’s time, and the West has actively been helping, they do not want to see the danger of this regime.
– Do not you think that when it comes to the problem of guaranteed survival for so many people, especially for those who are still living in the Soviet paradigm, the legality of the rulers you have mentioned and even sovereignty recede into the background? After all, a certain number of Belarusians might find the idea of getting under the protectorate of Moscow attractive.
– Just look at the Donbass and the Crimea to see the price of this attraction, and how quickly it ends. The attitude toward Lukashenka was demonstrated during the protests of 2017, which were triggered by the so-called “Decree On Parasitism”. And those were the most widespread protests in Belarus, in twenty cities since the times of perestroika. There were slogans “Down with Lukashenka”, “Resign” and so on – there is already real hatred towards him, because there are no results, no signs of the promised economic progress. And this is where the danger hides, because Putin is a more popular leader in Belarus than Lukashenka. And it’s not because people are satisfied with their life, but it’s because they reject Lukashenka, they, especially those who have been brainwashed by Russian propaganda, can support Putin. This is a real danger.
– But if this happens without armed conflict, don’t you think that the reaction of the West will be rather a restrained one?
– No, they cannot afford such a reserved reaction, because it will continue. Yes, indeed, they began to take part in the Ukrainian situation not immediately, but eventually they did take part! And this is essential, no one will recognize the Russian Crimea. Even if we assume that Putin is not there, the regime will remain aggressive. Would they encourage further Kremlin aggression in a region that is terribly important for Europe? The Baltic countries, as well as Poland, are really vulnerable to potential Kremlin aggression. The Suwalki Gap can cut off the Baltic countries, whether NATO will fight for them is an issue that is currently under discussion. I hope that they will draw conclusions from the Ukrainian situation – that they will not achieve anything by working with authoritarian regimes and dictators.
– At some point there was a feeling that when Moscow publicly pressed on Lukashenka, his support inside the country grew even among those who used to disfavour him. Can Lukashenka somehow make use of the fact that he is a formal symbol of sovereignty, and put the Belarusian opposition in a situation where it will have to fight for sovereignty alongside Lukashenka?
– Well, this situation was created by Lukashenka himself, and by no one else: he signed these unification agreements, he destroyed the Belarusian identity – history, culture and language, and he consciously became completely dependent on the Kremlin. But supposing that he is a defender of the independence of Belarus, supposing that we believe him. Then let him not bring down his repressions on the truly patriotic forces that support independence – the opposition, the independent press, civil society, independent trade unions, human rights activists, journalists, because they would help him to tough it out. But the repressions are intensifying! He fears opposition more than he fears Putin, he only defends the regime, his own money and interests. We are ready to talk, because everyone in Belarus understands the danger to independence, we are ready to talk even to the devil in order to defend it.