Liberation from him will release enormous energy within the country.
The leader of the European Belarus civil campaign Andrei Sannikov spoke at the Free Russia Forum channel. The host Dmitry Semyonov talked to the former presidential candidate about the situation in our country.
- The other day it became known that Vitaly Shklyarov, a political strategist, and Liliya Vlasova, a member of the Presidium of the Coordinating Council, had been released. Two political prisoners had been released a week earlier. Are these hints of Lukashenka that he is ready for a dialogue, or what does it all mean?
- In general, Lukashenka continues performances he has been playing for 26 years already. He is now trying to create a fake group for "dialogue".
But nobody wants to conduct a dialogue with him: he has an ultimatum to resign from his post. Therefore, these are just convulsions. Besides, we know how one brainwash people and break them. For example, Voskresensky - a released person - obviously signed the papers on cooperation. We have repeatedly faced it. They are poor things. However, the situation undergoes no changes. There is nothing like real negotiations between the opposition and the regime, in this case, the people and the regime, to say nothing of Lukashenka.
- These releases began after the meeting in the KGB jail between Lukashenka and arrested people, including Viktar Babaryka and Siarhei Tsikhanouski. You may know quite well the way Lukashenka and his nomenclature think. In general, what has generated the idea to conduct that meeting?
- I do not know. I am not interested in it. It was a meeting between a terrorist and hostages. In general, there was nothing for the hostages to discuss. One offered hostages to denounce their colleagues and friends, that's how I see it.
I do not know who has generated the idea. It may be Russian propagandists. Now they interfere in our internal affairs and openly work for Lukashenka's regime. I consider this a real intervention and interference in the internal affairs of Belarus. They may have inspired it.
This is the style of Russian propaganda, the Kremlin propaganda. I don't know. It is not interesting to me. There is nothing significant behind it. It does not contribute in any way to the resolution of the crisis - the gravest crisis of Belarus during Lukashenka's rule.
- After the meeting, it became known that Siarhei Tsikhanouski was allowed to talk on the phone to his wife Sviatlana. It became known that he called to act even harder. Does it mean that Lukashenka failed to reach his original goal?
- Of course, he failed! You see, there is some parallel reality Lukashenka tries to live in and clings to. He builds something people are not interested in. That's why he failed, and people delivered him an ultimatum. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Siarhei's wife, announced the People's Ultimatum and people support it. And these desperate attempts to stay in power with the help of a group of law enforcers bring the group closer to a dead end. Not only Lukashenka but all these masquerade people, who beat up peaceful demonstrators, are also in it together. They will go to the bottom together with their master.
- By the way, why Tsikhanouski and Babaryka agreed to come to this meeting? When I first learned this news, at first, I thought they had no choice. However, Maria Kalesnikava proved there was a choice.
- We do not know what happened there. I assume they had no information about the meeting at all. I suppose they had no choice. I was there and know what "any movement" means. "Any movement" is good. If one takes you somewhere, you have to agree and then take further steps on the spot. It's ok to go to the meeting. However, we don't know what they discussed there. I hope they expressed rather strict demands in Lukashenka's face. Today only those who sign cooperation obligations can be at large.
- Let us now talk about the protests in Belarus. The protests have been going on for the 3rd month already. Every Sunday shows, the number of participants remains the same. How do you think Belarus changed? Has the self-awareness of Belarusians changed? Now many people mention such a phenomenon as solidarity at the level of neighbourhoods. Are there any other innovations that come from below?
- I would say there have been drastic changes. The nation has made a quantum leap and become a real nation, Belarusians and has taken the most prominent place in the world. It became possible due to all these peaceful protests and unwillingness to rise to the baits.
There are enough provocations. Lukashenka admitted to one of them: he was preparing the arson of Tsikhanouskaya's headquarters. There were some failures. He told about victims among protesters. This group of murderers still works there. It can do nothing with peaceful protests because people do not rise to the baits.
There was another great rally of Sunday. More than a hundred thousand people joined it across the country. Minskers changed the route unexpectedly. They made a fool of all this equipment, these helmet- and shield-bearers.
Indeed, it gets new forms and yard resistance. We can see the bright design of these protests. The neighbourhoods, the yards, individuals, the legendary Nina Bahinskaya have their flags inspired by the national white-red-white flag.
Indeed, this has changed Belarus and proved that Lukashenka had no support at all. Now people have proven these changes through their courage and willingness to make sacrifices. One can now mention the world phenomenon that occurs in Belarus.
- We have already mentioned that Liliya Vlasova was released yesterday. Until yesterday almost all leaders of the Coordinating Council were either in prison or abroad. Do you think protesters need any leader or any organizing institution?
- The protesters are capable of organizing themselves. It is nice to hear that people are being released. It is bad that they are being released after thorough brainwash. I am waiting for the release of 4 people: Pavel Seviarynets, Mikalai Statkevich, Viktar Babaryka and Siarhei Tsikhanouski.
These are leaders who can significantly influence the situation. We achieve this all together. We keep stressing the need to release all leaders, including those who represent our European Belarus civil campaign: Jauhen Afnahel, Pavel Yukhnevich, Andrei Voinich.
But the four I have mentioned should have a real impact on the situation. Therefore, we demand strict sanctions. Economic, financial and trade ones. They are bound only to one demand: the immediate release of all political prisoners. It is how the process could break the logjam. Leaders are everywhere, and they are little known today. It's an additional safety cushion for these people. I know how brutal the authorities are towards leaders who are in the public eye. We know it as we were subject to preventive detentions. Therefore, it is great that the leadership has no specific face and name today.
- You have just mentioned a few people who are in prison. They may become leaders or possible leaders when they are released.
- Yes, of course.
- However, there is such a concept as a symbol of protest. I don’t know whether you will agree with me or not, but I believe that the triad of Tsikhanouskaya, Kalesnikava and Tsapkala has become such a symbol. Do you think this is true?
- I think that the symbols of protest are the Belarusian people and those who have always participated in protests. Therefore, I would call two surnames first: Mikalai Statkevich and Pavel Seviarynets. You know, there was a complex attitude of the headquarters of presidential candidates to the protests. In the beginning, they called for action without protests, that is, within the framework of Lukashenka's “law”, which in itself is stupidity. So I'm glad they are drifting in this direction, the side of supporting the protests.
But I would not call them a symbol of protest. The symbol of protest is Nina Bahinskaya. These are musicians who sing in the courtyards. These are people who stop armored vehicles and disassemble water cannons on the go. The symbol of protest is Pete Paulau, a famous Belarusian musician who sang “Three Turtles” in front of the barricades that riot policemen were building, and when they started giving some sound signals, he shouted: “Out of tune!”These are the symbols of protest. This is every Belarusian who comes out today, because it requires great courage.
- You have just mentioned the musicians, previously we talked with you about the phenomenon of solidarity at the level of neighborhoods and yards. How important is such territorial and professional solidarity? Apart from musicians, we know that famous Belarusian athlete Aliaksandra Herasimenya is now in Lithuania, and set up the foundation of the athletes solidarity. Is it important to create such professional groups, which will express disagreement with the regime and support for the protests?
- This is extremely important. Because it shows that all segments of the population, all social groups are against this regime.
Students organize, athletes organize, musicians, retirees, former military men and so on organize. Except for the participants in the protest demonstrations that took place in Belarus for a number of years. IT specialists organize.
In general, the solidarity of the athletes grew stronger after Lena Leuchanka, our most famous basketball player, was imprisoned. You have to be a complete idiot to jail world sports stars for particip[ation in peaceful actions. Or exclude them from federations, deprive them of the opportunity to play sports. Therefore, all Belarus respects Aliaksandra Herasimenya. And it’s great that it is the leaders, not some grassroots part, which, perhaps, was ready to support Lukashenka, it is the leaders of sports in all its forms that show themselves. I think and really look forward to the expansion of such a movement.
- How do you assess yesterday’s news regarding the nomination of Tsikhanouskaya, Kalesnikava and Tsapkala for the Peace Nobel Prize next year?
-Any nominations related to the protests, to the socio-political situation in Belarus can only be welcomed. It always pleases me when worthy people are nominated for awards and receive these awards.
There have already been “Viasna” HRC - Ales Bialiatski received the human rights Nobel, recently there were other awards. It always helps the country. The awards are always perceived as attention to the country, and a positive assessment of what is happening.
- You spoke on air for our channel after Lukashenka’s “inauguration”. You said back then that the Western countries, stating the illegitimacy of Lukashenka, must support their words with concrete actions. The first such step is evident, the withdrawal of ambassadors. The withdrawal of ambassadors really happened, at least on the part of Lithuania and Poland. However, it turns out that it happened not under the initiative of the Western countries, but following the demand of Lukashenka. Does it mean that Lukashenka outplayed the Western countries, or does he have no fear of the withdrawal of ambassadors so far?
- Firstly, this is not entirely true. Lukashenka unleashed a war against, first of all, Lithuania and Poland, because they were the most consistent in assessing events, took the most severe measures, and were ready to take individual measures against this regime.
This decision was made by the foreign ministries of the respective countries. And they were supported by all other countries, almost all European foreign ministries recalled their ambassadors from Belarus. This shows that they are acting consistently.
Besides, I would like to say that it is high time to kick those ambassadors who represent Lukashenka out of the country. If they do not yet have the brains to go over to the side of the people, then they must be parted with, since they represent the criminal regime. If you have announced that Lukashenka is illegitimate, then you should not put up with the fact that there is an embassy under his flag on your territory, and such measures should follow.
- Can it result in Belarus becoming a sort of a failed state for Lukashenka?
- First, Lukashenka’s regime is already a Failed State.
These measures are effective, I must tell you. I myself was imprisoned, and when Europe recalled the ambassadors, when economic sanctions were introduced, when they began to hint that the Belarusian ambassadors would also be kicked out, then the release of political prisoners began. So these measures are effective.
Everyone is making one mistake now: they compare Belarus with the Lukashenka regime. Belarus today on the streets under the white-red-white flag. This is Belarus. This regime is living out its last days. It is impossible to imagine that a handful of thugs would really retain their power in Belarus, even with the help of the Kremlin. It’s just impossible.
Therefore, the Lukashenka regime is the failed state. And Belarus today shows that it is ready for changes and a new life, which is long overdue. If we talk about such serious fundamental components of the state, then this is primarily the economy, which is absolutely not reformed. An absolutely sinking substance that cannot even be supported in Lukashenka's system, which requires huge subsidies from Russia, first of all. Therefore, liberation from the regime will release tremendous energy within the country.
- Since you mentioned the Kremlin and Russia… Do you think that the Putin regime will support Lukashenka till the end, or can there be a certain event after which even they will turn away from him?
- The support will be formal. I don’t know, I don’t want to think for them. I want to tell you what is happening now. I spoke about this, in particular, on your channel. Putin fell into the trap of supporting Lukashenka, because the attitude of people in Russia, citizens of Russia, towards Belarus is completely different than even towards Ukraine.
They carefully formed a hostile attitude to Ukraine, not only after the occupation of Crimea and aggression in Donbas, but before that there was rejection of democratic attempts, democratic development in Ukraine. Therefore, it was possible to instill such an attitude there - not among the majority, but many Russian citizens have a negative opinion about Ukraine.
There has always been a positive attitude towards Belarus. For a long time, the attitude towards the Belarusian people, towards Belarus, was equal to the attitude towards Lukashenka, that is, it was believed that Lukashenka was able to preserve some things that provide “social protection”. Today the opinion has changed dramatically. Today public opinion in Russia is on the side of the Belarusian people. Putin has fallen into the trap because he misses the moods of the Russians with his support for Lukashenka. That is, it brings closer the moment when, firstly, the rejection of the Kremlin will increase because of its behavior in the states neighboring with Russia. And, secondly, the moment of such outbreaks will be approaching, and then mass protests may occur in Russia itself. The Kremlin, wanting to show that it will support the dictatorship always and everywhere, in order to prevent such processes in Russia, is just making the time when this will happen in Russia closer. Not only in Khabarovsk.
- The ultimatum for Lukashenka, set forth by Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, is coming to an end. So far, we see that of four demands, only one has been partially fulfilled. Four people have been released from the remand prison. Do you think we will see the nationwide strike, for which Tsikhanouskaya is calling, on October 25, in case of failure to fulfill these demands?
- Not on the 25th, but on the 26th. The demands expire on October 25, and on October 26 the nationwide strike is declared. And I think we will see it to a certain degree, but I would like to say about the importance of this ultimatum, because there were some hesitations, there were some attempts.
You also started by saying that there were attempts at some kind of a “dialogue” that Lukashenka tried to organize. Personally, I am against a “dialogue” with the dictator, and even negotiations with the dictator.
The ultimatum set a very clear goal: Lukashenka's resignation. And it was important to designate it. It is from this that you need to make a start, from this you need to proceed. Our first demand is the resignation of Lukashenka.
If he does not fulfill this, the pressure will grow. International pressure will also escalate, because everyone is taking the problem of Belarus more and more seriously - not only because they want to help Belarusians, but also because they understand the threat to their own security, especially in Europe. If the Lukashenka regime continues to exist in Belarus, it will be a huge danger, including a military one, for Europe. But this is a topic for another conversation. Therefore, I believe that the ultimatum was very timely and useful, and events will continue to develop on an increasing scale.