The protesters in Belarus have already won.
The confrontation between the authorities and those who protest against Lukashenka's rule has been going on for over 130 days in Belarus. Correspondents of Voice of America discussed with experts the situation in our country and the development of the Belarusian revolution.
Lev Ponomarev: "In fact, the protesters have already won".
Lev Ponomarev, Chairman of the Russian NGO For Human Rights, believes that Lukashenka is facing a dead end.
The human rights defender expressed his admiration for the Belarusian citizens who, despite everything, do not want to give in. He thinks it is especially important that the Belarusian protests are "being built up from the bottom". "A huge number of people in the republic show incredible firmness, defending their rights. It is a unique story, and people's efforts will have an impact in any case. Now some sceptics say that further resistance is meaningless... They are wrong. Hundreds of thousands of people in Belarus have expressed their firm 'No' to the regime and have united ideologically, which sooner or later brings positive changes to the country".
Even if Lukashenko manages to stay in power for a while, the developments are a turning point for the country. No dictatorial regime can rely only on the support of law enforcers and officials for a long time, stresses the human rights activist.
"In fact, the protesters have already won by uniting and showing character," says the interlocutor of Voice of America.
- In the past Belarusians were treated as an uncomplaining nation. Now the picture is quite different.
Besides, the situation in Belarus is a real example for other countries including Russia, of how to fight for one's rights, says Lev Ponomarev.
Gennady Gudkov: "Today the international factor is becoming key in the fight against dictatorships".
Russian politician and former State Duma deputy Gennady Gudkov believes that Siarhei Tsikhanouski is "definitely a hostage". He believes that Tsikhanouski should be the first on the lists of political prisoners who should be released upon the demand of the West. The politician believes that the West should formulate and put forward demands on Lukashenka: "One should make public the lists of people who innocently serve terms in prisons. We need broader personal sanctions against officials and Lukashenka's entourage. They must see that the gates to the West are closed to them. One should conduct international investigations into the origin of their capital".
Today the international factor is crucial in the fight against dictatorships, says Gennady Gudkov.
The absence of dictatorship in Russia would lead to the elimination of dictatorship in Belarus, the collapse of authoritarian regimes in Central Asia and would solve many urgent issues of our time, Gudkov believes.
Arseniy Sivitsky: "Lukashenka has fallen into a geopolitical trap".
Arseny Sivitsky, Director of the Centre for Strategic and Foreign Policy Studies, believes Lukashenka is holding Viktar Babaryka, Maria Koleksnikova and Siarhei Tsikhanouski as hostages to demonstrate he controls the situation.
"The release of these people will provide street protest with leaders. Moreover, it is noteworthy that not only the West but also Russia demand the release of political prisoners," said the Belarusian expert in a conversation with the correspondent of Voice of America. He adds that the demands for Lukashenka also include safety guarantees for Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Valery Tsepkalo after their return to Belarus from forced emigration. The next step the Kremlin expects from Aliaksandr Lukashenka entails the organisation of a national dialogue and the announcement of early presidential and parliamentary elections, reminds Sivitsky.
According to Sivitsky, the Sochi meeting of Lukashenka and Vladimir Putin this September focused on this issue. "Lukashenka ... is trying in every possible way to delay the fulfilment of his obligations and is looking for various formal reasons to keep his political opponents under arrest for as long as possible," said the expert.
"As a result, Lukashenka finds himself in a geopolitical trap, because both the West and Russia demand the same thing," said the expert.