24 July 2019, Wednesday, 2:23
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Valer Karbalevich: Belarusian Authorities Will Not Learn July 3 Lesson

Until now, Lukashenka has remained silent about the tragedy.

One person died, ten were injured as a result of the festive salute, which thundered in Minsk on July 3. The state promised citizens a demonstration of greatness and power, and sowed death and pain. At the same time, it is clear that the authorities hardly adapt to work in the new informational reality: the more information the law-enforcement agencies give out, the stronger the public distrust to it. BelGazeta talked to political analyst Valer Karbalevich about the political consequences and possible lessons of the tragedy.

- Similar tragedies are possible in any country: Notre Dame burned down in Paris, accidents repeatedly happened in the USA. Still, such a tragedy as on July 3, the country's main national holiday, objectively, without anybody's will, becomes a political problem. The authorities also understand this and react to the situation from a political point of view.

- How do you characterize the reaction to the tragedy of the state-run media, the Ministry of Defense, and Aliaksandr Lukashenka?

- The state media immediately, even at night, reported the tragedy. In the old days, when unpleasant events occurred, the authorities either silenced them or reported them with a huge delay.

The Ministry of Defense, the Investigatory Committee responded very quickly to the tragedy, giving their comments and presenting the findings. Both departments are not distinguished by openness and transparency of work: we remember how the Ministry of Defense for a long time completely denied hazing in the army, how nervously it reacted to numerous reports of suicides and other emergencies. From time to time, the Investigatory Committee didn’t provide information about who was arrested, for what, what charges were brought (especially when it comes to an official in authority), and now they reacted very quickly, and even arrested two engineers from Russia who accompanied the cargo of fireworks.

“FIRST ARREST, AND THEN FIGURE THINGS OUT”

- Speaking about the minuses, the state media have worked in their own style. The next day, the events on the Independence Day were reported as follows: a parade took place in Minsk, a solemn wreath laying ceremony, Lukashenka’s speech, everything is fine - and only close to the end, the death of the woman was reported as an unpleasant incident. I think the tragedy would be in the first place in a democratic society, everything else would move to the background. However, the official ideological concept a priori fixes the state’s priority over human rights: first, tell about the state power and greatness, and only then, about human tragedy. It is in this style, by the way, that the cult of the Great Patriotic War is interpreted in Belarus: the main thing is heroism, and the tragedy, the losses are somewhere in the background. So, the events of July 3 were interpreted basing on the ideological concept of power.

Until now (at the time of approval the issue to print - Edit.), Aliaksandr Lukashenka had not uttered a word about the tragedy. In a democratic country, the head of state first of all had to express condolences to the families of the deceased and wounded - otherwise the opposition and the media would have simply pecked him. But since our government is not controlled by the society, Lukashenka can afford not to comment on the tragedy at all. On behalf of the Belarusian people and himself, he expressed his condolences to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the families of those killed in the floods in the Irkutsk region, but he is not in a hurry to give condolences to the Belarusian citizens. Again, Lukashenka acts within the framework of the usual scheme: if an event unpleasant for the authorities happens, he pauses, looks at the reaction, assesses it - and then speaks out. This happened after the infamous "cross massacre" in Kurapaty, after the Roma pogrom, I think it will happen now.

It is difficult for me to make judgements about the legality of the detention of engineers who accompanied the fireworks. It is possible that the products themselves are really poor-quality, there may be serious complaints about the Russian company, but I have doubts about the guilt of the detainees. The Belarusian law-enforcement agencies act quite schematically: they received a command to react - they reacted in the usual style, they say, arrest first, and then figure things out. As with the battery plant in Brest: as soon as the command was given to deal with the construction, the first thing that the law-enforcement officers did was arrest the owner. For a long time they "did not notice" the violations during the construction of the plant, but as soon as they received the command, they began to act.

And the last minus. Before finding out the causes of the tragedy, it would be necessary to stop any salutes. And here, it turns out, on Midsummer, three days after the tragedy, on the day of the farewell to the one killed during the salute in Minsk, fireworks in Aleksandryja are organized again. It seems illogical and wrong to me.

''THE MOST ACTUAL QUESTION IS WHO IS GUILTY?''

- The investigation is underway, two Russians are detained, but the supplier company denies its guilt. Is the Ministry of Defense not obliged to check the quality of the purchased products? During the time Andrei Raukou was in the post of the Defense Minister, too much emergency situations occurred in the army. Will there be any political consequences for the Ministry of Defense?

- It is difficult to judge, because Lukashenka has his own ideas about what is bad and what is good. How many scandals with the Interior Ministry happened - and he kept Minister Ihar Shunevich for more than eight years.

You see, the degree of guilt of the Ministry of Defense is not such a simple question. In the Belarusian army there has always been hazing, but only in 2017, after the scandalous death of Aliaksandr Korzhych in Barysau, the problem of hazing turned into a political one, causing Lukashenka’s reaction. I think that a new information situation has played its role: if before, the events were what was shown on the Belarusian TV channels, now the situation has changed dramatically due to the development of the Internet. The Internet and social networks make any problem broader and much louder and more significant. After all, before there were suicides, but there was no such reaction of society.

You probably shouldn't shift all the blame on the Ministry of Defense, although the office has plenty of problems. Take the new law on postponements - how much is the ministry guilty?

It solves the narrow problem of its own interests: there are not enough military personnel, and the ministry offers its measures to replenish the army. The Ministry of Defense is not obliged to think about the economy, how much damage the new law will cause to the Belarusian education, about the damage to the IT sphere. The ministry has its own functions, and all other decisions are taken by the political leadership. The Belarusian authorities hardly adapt to work in the new informational conditions, respectively, all departments, including the Ministry of Defense is also struggling to adapt to the new situation.

"WE NEED TO TALK TO THE SOCIETY"

- This is not the first tragedy on the Independence Day, we remember the terrorist attacks of 2008. What lessons should the authorities learn?

- What conclusions the Belarusian government will make, and what lessons should be learned, are completely different questions. The authorities should learn the most important lesson - it is necessary to conduct a dialogue with the society: both when adopting a law on postponements, and when deciding on the issue of parade, because a significant part of the society is dissatisfied with its consequences. We need to talk with the society if the government really wants to demonstrate state greatness during the parades. It is necessary to talk with Minsk dwellers, explain to them, warn in advance about the blocking of the streets. If you arrange a salute, you must take all safety measures.

But I'm not sure that the government will learn this lesson. After all, it, on the contrary, seems very proud that there is no need for contacts with the society. Once Lukashenka proudly said: I did not give the so-called civil society the control over the security forces. Quite right, he did not, but now chickens come home to roost, he does not manage to clear up all the scandals. I do not believe that the Belarusian government is able to draw adequate political conclusions. I'm not talking about technical work on errors, for example, to expand the radius of the safe zone from the current 500 meters to 1000 - this is possible. But to begin a dialogue with people, to talk with the society as an independent subject, to report to society - this lesson will not be learned by the authorities.