It is time to impose economic sanctions on factories where workers' rights to strike are violated.
Charter97.org editor-in-chief Natallia Radzina said this in an interview with the Free Russia Forum, commenting on the national strike that began in Belarus after the expiration of the term of People's Ultimatum to Lukashenka.
Here are excerpts from the conversation. Watch the full interview on the video.
- At the moment, it is known that many enterprises are on strike. These are the Minsk Tractor Plant, Hrodna Azot, the Minsk Motor Plant, Motovelo, Belomo, and Belkommunmash. There are hotbeds of strikes at Belaruskali. People went on strike and a street rally of solidarity in the Hi-Tech Park in Minsk.
Actions of Belarusian students continue to take place in Minsk. Students are great fellows. In the capital, for example, students from all major universities came out. These are the Belarusian State University (BSU), the Belarusian State Economic University (BSEU); these are both technical and medical universities.
Student solidarity today is very impressive. Yesterday, students joined the March of Pensioners, which took place in Minsk - it has turned out to be a powerful union of wisdom and youth; thousands of people marched through Minsk's center.
- Can we say that today students are the driving force of protest?
- Of course, students are one of the driving forces of the Belarusian protest. I admire our young people.
- Has the general strike already begun, or is it just the first stage, which will climax?
- I hope this is only the initial stage. In addition to state-owned enterprises, private businesses and civil servants actively joined the strike. Many shops are closed, and restaurants and cafes throughout the country are closed. I really hope that this is the initial stage, and in the future, the strike will develop throughout the country. The bravest must always go ahead. Maybe they are not the majority. But today, the whole world, the whole country, is watching our heroes. We are proud of them and hope that the strike will continue and grow.
- What, in your opinion, can be the reason for the success of the strike now?
- For example, I am an adherent of the so-called "occupation strikes." There is an experience of the Polish Solidarity, when workers do not leave the territory of their enterprise, close the gates, barricade themselves, and entrepreneurs and all sympathizers supply them with food. This type of strike took place at the Gdansk shipyard in Poland and was quite effective.
I think that now is the time, among other things, to apply international economic sanctions against those Belarusian enterprises where strike committees and the labor movement are being suppressed.
Now we are recording all violations that occur at Belarusian enterprises. I want to warn the heads of all plants and factories that they can fall under individual sanctions, and their enterprises - under economic sanctions.
- How do you see the development of the situation?
- I think we need to continue the massive peaceful protest. There is no need to demand the impossible from Belarusians. What is happening now is a miracle. The whole world admires the Belarusian protests, including the patience of the Belarusian demonstrators who do not break into violence.
Pressure on Lukashenka should be continued untill his immediate resignation.
- What is the role of the international community? Can the EU, the USA, and other countries do something more for Belarus than has already been done?
- I believe that serious economic sanctions should be introduced. There are not enough personal sanctions against those responsible for the crimes and Lukashenka himself.
It is necessary to impose sanctions against businesses that support the dictator, his so-called "wallets" and oligarchs. It is necessary to impose economic sanctions. This is a very serious lever that can change the situation in a fairly short and fast time frame.
The popular ultimatum and the strike gave momentum to the protests. And this is very good. Today everyone understands that in order to win the protest movement, there should be as many people as possible, as many enterprises as possible should go on strike. People in Belarus today understand that everything depends on each of them.
Why do these protests have no leaders, no clear political leaders? Because in fact, everyone in Belarus today feels like a leader. Everyone understands that freedom and victory depend on him. And this is very cool, and it is important to preserve and develop this.