26 February 2020, Wednesday, 3:05
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Andrei Voynich: Strange Quartet Plays In Lukashenka's Head

Andrei Voynich: Strange Quartet Plays In Lukashenka's Head
IVAN KRYLOV, FABLE "QUARTET", CARTOON SHOT

People are in poverty, and he's buying a new plane for himself.

Is it possible to say that there is indeed a "complicated situation" for the Belarusian authorities, several months before the presidential election? The other day there sounded several controversial statements of Lukashenka, which may reveal certain moods among the top officials.

Andrei Voynich, independent blogger and activist of the European Belarus civil campaign, has commented for the Charter97.org website on the situation in the country on the eve of the 2020 presidential election.

- How would you comment on Lukashenka's recent trip to his small motherland in Shklou? What conclusions can be drawn about the state of the Belarusian authorities in this period?

- Let us start with the following: every year Lukashenka says that "we're going to have a hard year" or "we've had a hard year" - he hasn't changed a thing about that. We have already had so many "hard years" that it is almost impossible to surprise a person with this, and even more so to scare him. On the one hand, it's just chitchat, but on the other hand, this time, it's a really tough year for the ruler in the literal sense.

First of all, there have been certain changes in the social sphere: the rise in the price of the communal services, the rise in the price of travel, the restatement of salaries for public sector employees ... Public sector employees, by the way, are very dissatisfied. I am a former medical specialist and communicate with people who work in the medical sphere. People are extremely dissatisfied: it is as if they should have had more income, but in reality it is becoming less - plus inflation. That is, the situation is in fact quite tough and critical.

As for the governor's trip to Shklou district... How can I put it mildly... Lukashenka has become such an emotional townie-teenager. He basically was, but now, it's making its way out of him without any restraint.

It does not even matter what he said - it's important, how he said it. He didn't say anything constructive there: "made him toe the line" with the oil, "made him plank down...". What self-respecting leader will make such statements on camera? I think it's extreme madness, absurdity in such statements.

If you look at it, it feels like the fable "The Quartet" by Krylov. There is a feeling that all those monkeys, donkeys (who else was there?) have clubbed together into this strange quartet in his head, in his personality - and everyone is trying to play for himself. And it all comes out of one person simultaneously through his "diarrhea of the mouth". That's all that can be said about his trip to Shklou district. In principle, the same can be said about almost all his statements lately. They are very emotional and unconstructive.

- After Shklou district, there was a meeting on the problems of agro-industrial complex in Vitsebsk region, where he said that the entire region should return him 1.5 billion dollars. Apparently, that was the first statement said in such a way - before, he used to talk only about the "support" of the agrarians. Is this an important symptom in your opinion?

- Well, the man, again, behaved like a petty thug, and what is more, an illiterate petty thug. The man has brought agriculture to the stage where it can't even earn money for itself, it can't break even. He put it on subsidies, on subsidies that do not justify themselves. That is, his "planned economy" doesn't work and will never work. Actually, it has never worked anywhere. But for some reason Lukashenka is sincerely convinced of the opposite, maybe he does it on purpose, like a pool of pests of some kind.

At that, he has done it all himself, having driven the agrarians into debt, now he demands that they pay these debts back. This whole situation has a whiff of not even extortion, but of pure banditry. In the 90s the bandits used to put a man in such conditions that he would break even, enter into debts, which they would then charge him with. That's because it was hard for them to charge debts from another person who wasn't bound to them. So the governor has intentionally created a situation in which it is possible to "charge".

In principle, he is not even legally right, not to mention the fact that he cannot charge 1.5 billion dollars from the people who are next door to starving, predominantly in rural areas. And he wants money from them. Not directly, of course, but through the authorities in this region. But in any case, the authorities will recover these funds from common people - through taxes, through extortions, through forced subscription to official newspapers. Lukashenka has introduced so many methods of extortion that it is simply impossible to guess which ones will be used in this case. But they will be used and they will bring the whole region to extreme poverty.

- How would you comment on the information about Lukashenka's new Business Jet, which costs quite a lot, against the background of such a statement?

- 102 million dollars. Yeah, I've written about it on Facebook. And in fact, it's very easy to comment on it.

I compare this man's behavior with the one of a capricious little kid in a poor family who broke his knee, and his mother, instead of buying home some sausage, or a carton of milk, or iodine for his knee, goes and buys him sweets. So Lukashenka bought himself a "sweetie" - at the time when he is with a grazed knee.

And he has hurt not only his knee - he's hurt the knees of the whole country. However, he pleased himself with such a toy, as, you see, he feels bad (and I've got an inkling that he feels pretty bad in his heart). At that he could not hide the expensive plane from the media. And it has quickly evolved into a cause célèbre - it's not just a diamond tie-pin. And we do not know how many such toys and for how much money he actually buys himself for such feather bedding. And until he's out of power, until he's tried, we won't know.

My opinion based on the latest events is as follows: this is the agony of Lukashenka's power, a real agony. Now he will go to Dobrush - and they are mowing grass in winter there. And the "mayor" of the town has shown a blogger the bird on camera. It's the hysterics. It's the agony of power. This power will be gone soon. That's it! This is the end of it. My opinion is that Lukashenka won't be able to take hold himself. So let him get ready for the elections. The elections will be very serious.

- And what are the sentiments among common Belarusians? And do they have the same opinion as you do that this election is very important and that "the time has come"?

- It is possible to divide people into several categories.

A very large number of people understand that the time has come, that it's not possible to drag feet anymore. Most of them are determined to change the regime. It's a fact. If we take into account the degree of their readiness for some serious steps, then, again, such people are the majority.

However, there is a sufficient group of people who are not ready for such serious steps. But I think that this "progression of the economic bottom", which is now being observed, may push these people to take some serious steps.

At that, the people who are not ready yet, they are resolutely against Lukashenka and against his power. They just think that they have something to lose right now. These people will understand in the coming months because of the economic situation that they have nothing to lose anymore.

As for the sentiments among the acquaintances: soon there will be a meeting of medical graduates. We have created a common chat room where more than 60 people communicate. Lately I've noticed there that people are very dissatisfied. Medics are so dissatisfied with the power and the state of affairs that they are looking for work in Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. They are ready to move, although they have families. That is, these are 40 year old women with families and children, who are ready to go abroad on a rotational basis and work there. They are ready to learn the language. Ready to pass the exams. Because it's impossible to work here: the medical sphere has been killed.

The same thing, I think, happens in all budget spheres. My brother works at one of the factories in Minsk region, he wrote the other day that it had become very difficult to work: they are forced to go on vacation at their own expense, there are problems with salaries. That is, Lukashenka himself does everything so that people wouldn't "elect" him.

- What would you like to say to the category of people who are dissatisfied but are not yet ready to join the protests?

- I can say only one thing to these people. It is possible to dismiss Lukashenka by taking to the streets. The practice of "parliamentary elections" has shown that he is afraid of it.

That is, we took to the streets during the "parliamentary elections," we took to the streets in support of independence - and it all backfired with serious turmoil on the authorities. The "judicial conveyor" has been launched not because Lukashenka wants to shake his finger at us, but because he's afraid.

And it means that we can change the situation in the country only this way, by taking to the streets, showing our protest, showing our discontent openly. And then those people who are dissatisfied with the current situation will have a chance to improve it.