Belarusians are in solidarity with Russian fighters for freedom.
On July 27th, mass protests of the Russian opposition, who demanded to register independent candidates, who had not been allowed to participate in the Moscow City Duma elections, took place in the center of Moscow. Thousands of Muscovites took to the streets of the Russian capital. The authorities answered with harsh dispersal and detentions. After the protest demonstration, 1373 people were detained. The leaders of the protest - Aleksei Navalny, Ilya Yashin, Konstantin Yankauskas - were arrested for 24 hours. However, the opposition has announced new protests and is going to seek registration of candidates for the Moscow City Duma elections.
The Charter97.org website asked Zmitser Bandarenka, a coordinator of the European Belarus civil campaign, to comment on the situation around the protests in Moscow.
- No one expected that the Moscow City Duma elections would lead to such rallies. So it turns out that the actions of the Russian authorities have only intensified the protests?
- It seems to me that it has something to do with the fact that the Russian opposition had realized that the elections are a chance for action. They used to not register candidates in Russia before, but there was no strong reaction. And in this case, we saw the commitment in protecting the candidates.
The campaigns had been well conducted, there had been communication with people. Nowadays, a significant part of Muscovites do not watch Putin's propaganda channels, they have an opportunity to receive information from independent sources: Dozhdz, Navalny's television. All this has led to such an unexpected result for the Russian and Moscow authorities.
- The demonstration in Moscow is called one of the most massive since the Bolotnaya Square protests. Why did so many Russians protest?
- This is due to the fact that Russia is under sanctions because of its aggressive policies. There is less money, but Russian officials are not stealing less. Even people in Moscow live worse and feel the lack of perspective. On the other hand, Muscovites live in a large metropolis, where there are many foreigners, where the authorities cannot apply the same methods as in the Russian provinces. The people of Moscow are part of the global world system and don't want to be just serfs, don't want to put up with disrespect and rudeness of officials who steal like mad but act as if they were power.
- It is no secret that the options for continuing Putin's power after 2024 are being considered. Could this lead to even greater politicization of Russians?
- Lukashenka's and Putin's regimes are very similar. Therefore, the reasons for people's dissatisfaction are very similar: poor quality of life, lack of freedom, impudence of the rulers. Communists used to say that communism is eternal. Hitler used to talk about some kind of "millennial Reich". But these regimes collapsed. Yes, the current dictators of Russia and Belarus have been in power for more than Brezhnev, but the result will be the same. There can be no normal economy without freedom and political reforms. Especially if the politicians strive for self-isolation and pursue such a policy. Everything can happen at any moment. I survived "perestroika", nobody then thought that the Soviet Union would fall apart, and the power of the Communists would end.
It seems to me that events are now developing dynamically throughout the post-Soviet space. People are connected, including through the Russian language. They see and discuss protests in Armenia, protests in Georgia, the situation in Ukraine, Moldova, the situation in Belarus and Russia. Probably, one can expect the most unexpected changes in Russia and Belarus in the next year.
- What would you say to the Russians, who are going to protest?
- The main words for many centuries - "For our and your freedom!" We have always known that there are democrats in Russia who support the struggle of Belarusians for their freedom and independence. Today we admire them and stand in solidarity with Russian heroes, freedom fighters.
Hold on, people, support one another, the authorities are afraid of your solidarity, the authorities are afraid of our solidarity. I personally was watching the video of the protest rallies in Moscow for several hours and I just admire the Russians, young Muscovites, those who came to Moscow to protest. The people want to be respected and protected.
And today, as the leader of the Belarusian National Congress, Mikalai Statkevich, says, millions of people are watching the leaders of the protests on the Internet, but tomorrow they will go outside to protect their rights and achieve a change of power through fair elections.