The sun will shine on our side of the fence.
Coordinator of the European Belarus civil campaign Zmitser Bandarenka has told the Charter97.org website how, in his opinion, the situation in Belarus will develop in the near future.
- Many people say that the situation in Belarus is unique today, as such hatred towards Lukashenka has never existed.
- Yes, it is true. Although I do not agree with Viktar Babaryka's assertion that Lukashenka has always had an electoral majority before 2020. No, he did not have the electoral majority even in 2001, when the common candidate was Uladzimir Hancharyk and the second round was supposed to take place. These are not just my beliefs or assumptions, I know that at that time regular sociological polls were conducted. And according to the data of the American Institute IRI in particular, Lukashenka did not get 50% in the first round. Probably, there was no such hatred towards Lukashenka at that time, but the average salary was less than $100. People did not want him then, but the election results were grossly falsified.
In 2010, the second round with Andrei Sannikov in it was also supposed to be held in Belarus. According to the results of the exit-pools and the data of the international observers, the foreign ministers of four European countries wrote an article "Lukashenka is a Loser" and stated that the second round of the presidential elections should take place in Belarus.
Lukashenka is Goebbels judging by the level of lies. We also see it by the official figures of deaths from coronavirus in Belarus, which are tens of times less real and tens of times less than in countries with similar situations.
Nowadays, there are many more people actively protesting, but this doesn't mean that our victory is in the bag. There have already been situations when the majority of citizens opposed the dictator, but those windows of opportunity were wasted by Belarusians. As Yury Khashchavatski concisely said, "I wish we wouldn't screw such an opportunity up once again."
- Candidate for president of Belarus Viktar Babaryka has been in the KGB jail since June 18. You used to be a prisoner in this jail yourself. What conditions are created for detainees in the pre-trial detention center?
- The conditions may be the most severe. Special conditions may be created for a group of prisoners, for instance, political prisoners, or special conditions may be introduced for individual prisoners.
I do not believe in the bravura statements of Babaryka's lawyers that he is healthy and feels fine. Except that at the beginning he didn't have a place to sleep, and now they say that he is like a cork, but there are problems with drinking water. I think that he is in a cell without a toilet, he is taken to the toilet twice a day. Now the average temperature in the cells is 30-40 degrees, the ventilation aisles are closed to put additional pressure on the prisoners. The Amerikanka prison has a dome that gets very hot. I was in the KGB jail from December 20, 2010 to May 11, 2011. There were only a few warm days and even that was hard. Now the conditions there are simply hellish.
I would like to note that we should not come under the sway of lawyers, who are also under intense pressure. It is one thing to work as a lawyer for a wealthy banker, and another thing to deal with the KGB system, when they warn you straight away that your license will be lost if you behave inappropriately. I had a lawyer whom I managed to tell during short meetings that "masks" had come into our prison, and they threatened us with "political" murders and rapes, that prisoners were beaten and tortured, and I asked her to report it to the public so that they would know. Naturally, she did not pass any of that along. I assume that they apply the screws against Viktar by putting pressure on his son, Eduard, to remove him "voluntarily" from the election. Lidziya Yarmoshyna hinted at it. The authorities will say then that "we have registered him, but he has refused". This is another possible scenario.
For more than 20 days Pavel Seviarynets has been in a punishment cell in Akrestsina. Siarhei Tsikhanouski has just left the punishment cell, but he could have been transferred to a special cell, there are several of them in Valadarka, where the pressure on prisoners is put with the help of scoundrels working for the administration. We have information that Narodnaya Hramada leader Mikalai Statkevich has been beaten in Akrestsina.
We must do everything to release our leaders. We can't win unless we get freedom for them. Or are we going to wait for "election" day on August 9?
- How do you assess the behavior of Babaryka's election headquarters while he is in prison? Perhaps you could give some advice as a person with extensive experience in campaigning solidarity with political prisoners?
- I have talked to Viktar himself and some members of his headquarters. I don't understand many things about their strategy. They have a sort of superficiality, as if they know the situation better, the opposition did everything wrong, and they will defeat the dictatorship with some clever plans and legal tricks. But the selection of people to the election commissions, which Babaryka's team had high hopes for, shows that the number of alternative representatives is five times less than in 2015.
Just as there is no special Belarusian way in the economy, the Belarusian revolution cannot be any special either. It may have some nuances, but the forms and means of struggle should correspond to those used by the countries, where the non-violent revolutions won.
Opposition leaders Statkevich, Seviarynets and many others said that it is important to get ready for multi-day mass protests and a general strike, that this is the only way we can change the power. The same was said by Siarhei Tsikhanouski, who called on people to be active. Tsepkala and Babaryka's teams did not call themselves oppositionists, did not express solidarity with political prisoners and stated that they do not violate any laws, and therefore the authorities allegedly have no opportunity to cope with them. Just collecting signatures for the nomination is very little and clearly not enough to change the power in the country and defeat the dictatorship.
However, this does not change our attitude towards Babaryka's team and those people who were arrested with him. They are our comrades-in-arms today. We must stand in solidarity with them and insist on their release, as well as on the release of all those illegally arrested.
- There is more than a month left till the elections in Belarus. How should we act in order not to waste a chance to win?
- It seems to me that the moment of truth will be related to the moment of registration or non-registration of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Viktar Babaryka. In case they are not registered as candidates for the presidency of the Republic of Belarus, Belarusians should take to the streets of their cities and towns in mass and decisive manner - to take to the streets literally on the same day, no matter what the headquarters of candidates and the so-called independent media say.
We have already faced the situation when on the last day of the legal signature collection on June 19, 2020, Mikalai Kazlou and Natallia Radzina via the Charter 97 website urged Belarusians to use the legal opportunity to put signatures and express solidarity with the arrested leaders. But, for example, Radio Svaboda published an article with an appeal of "Eduard Babaryka's girlfriend" and his headquarters not to take to the streets, because "it may harm Eduard." Fortunately, Belarusians have always had strong common sense, and that day several tens of thousands of people took to the streets across the country. The editorial boards of the sites in Belarus are under incredible pressure from the authorities, it is evidenced by their complete disregard for flash mob solidarity, in which hundreds of thousands of Belarusians have taken part.
It is necessary to work using the methods corresponding to the developing revolutionary situation. If our candidates, for whom we have given our signatures, for whom we have taken to the streets and stood in queues, for whom we have been supporting in social networks, are not registered, then we should proceed to other methods of struggle. We should take to the streets not because Viktar Babaryka is so awesome or Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is ready to run the country, but because the authorities have brazenly spat in our faces, having left no disguise for their lawlessness. Should we remain silent? No, we have to take to the street.
If hundreds of thousands of people put their signatures for alternative candidates, and on the most active days about 70-80 thousand people took part in collecting signatures, in protests, then we need to do everything to make sure that a million of people all over the country takes to the streets. 300 thousand in Minsk and 700 thousand in other cities and towns of the country. This is absolutely real, because there are 97% of us.
Now there is a great legal and safe opportunity to train in our collective actions - to participate in the flash mob of solidarity. Every day at 19.00 every Belarusian has an opportunity to express his opinion, to hear his neighbors, to hear his friends and to make noise in solidarity, showing that we are the majority.
- Do you already think about what will happen in the first days and months after Lukashenka's gone?
- If we win, there will be a complete reset of power at all levels through free elections. First, a coalition government will be created, which will include representatives of various political forces. Then there will be free elections for President, Parliament and mayors. We must understand that this is indeed a historic moment. Such moments are dreamed of.
Once I was in the U.S. Congress as part of the Belarusian delegation. Young American diplomats and politicians came up to me and said that we, Belarusians, are a happy people because we have the opportunity to fight for our freedom and independence. Indeed, Belarusians can now go down in history, because they will fundamentally change life in their country for the better. I am confident that the representatives of the democratic opposition, which I also represent, will join the leadership of the country and occupy leading positions in various government bodies.
All the participants of our Belarusian revolution, who will show courage and heroism, will be decorated with state awards. Perhaps, with the ones that already exist, and perhaps with new ones that will be established by the new government. All the people who have suffered or will suffer from the actions of the authorities during the Revolution of Hope will also receive special state awards and state aid. This will inevitably happen because it is important.
A new elite of the country is being formed now. People who will show courage and organizational skills will be part of the new system of power.
Whatever the first coalition government of Belarus is, the first roles under the new government will be played by people who have been in opposition for many years, opposed the dictatorship and passed through the regime torture chambers. In the new government, there will also be presidential candidates and team members, who also faced repression in different years. These are Aliaksandr Kazulin, Andrei Sannikov, Mikalai Statkevich, Viktar Babaryka, Siarhei Tsikhanouski and other worthy candidates. These people will be in power.
I am sure that those officials and businessmen, who opposed the Lukashenka regime, maybe not publicly, but who suffered for it, will find their place through the new elections and renew the political system. I am sure that all these political forces, which I have named and which will become the basis of the new power, will a priori strive for the law to prevail in the new Belarus.
The criminal crimes committed by the Lukashenka regime against its political rivals - abduction and murder of opposition leaders and journalists, torture, mockery, gross violations of the law against presidential candidates in different years, lawlessness against the arrested heroes of the Belarusian revolution - all these cases will be a priority for the new authorities.
We will try to catch all these criminals who were involved in "death squads," murders of people, torture of presidential candidates and members of their headquarters, mockery of prisoners. We will find all these criminals, and they will answer in law. We will use all international and Belarusian legal mechanisms to find and punish them. In fact, there are not many such people - no more than 3 per cent. 97 per cent in the law enforcement agencies, as well as in the entire Belarusian society, are honest and decent people.
If the "heroes" from riot police do not want to think today and continue to spit on the law, then tomorrow they will be residents of the penal colony № 3 "Vitsba". The particular troublemakers, who don't consider themselves bound by the law, may find themselves in strict regime colonies in Ivatsevichy or Hlubokaye. If they do not consider themselves officers obliged to observe the oath, the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Belarus, then they will be imprisoned in the colonies of strict regime not as officers, but as especially serious criminals. It is possible that special sessions for some people will be held in The Hague Court.
I want to repeat once again that it will be the basis of the new government's policy. If we do not condemn these crimes, we will not be able to become a proper civilized state. I think that there will be a consensus of all new political elites on this issue. Justice will triumph.
The only thing that can ease the fate of today's criminals in uniform is repentance to the Belarusian people, putting an end to assistance to the criminal group of Lukashenka, Makei, Sheiman, and dismissal from punitive bodies. This will be considered by the future democratic court as a mitigating circumstance.