All Belarusians have to do is help these birds finish the bastard off.
Why did the Belarusian regime unleash a hybrid conflict on the borders with the EU? What does Putin's call for a dialogue between the official Minsk and the opposition mean? What did the striking Belarusians manage to achieve?
The coordinator of the European Belarus civil campaign Dzmitry Bandarenka answers these and other questions in an interview with Charter97.org.
- The hot phase of the hybrid conflict, which the Lukashenka regime unleashed on the border of the EU and Belarus, has been going on for two weeks already. What are the Belarusian authorities trying to achieve and do the EU countries manage to respond toughly to the regime's actions?
- With a hybrid attack on neighboring countries, Lukashenka is trying to divert the attention of Belarusians from the dire situation in the country's economy, from the falling living standards, and from the disastrous catastrophe that is now being observed in Belarus. Because the reports that appear about three hundred dead daily indicate that about ten thousand people die in Belarus a month. Now, this topic is being discussed by all Belarusians, since many families are faced with COVID-19. Even if some did not get sick and did not lose loved ones, they know that their neighbors and friends faced such a misfortune.
Lukashenka was also confident that, by his actions, he would be able to cause direct economic damage to Lithuania, Poland, Latvia, and the European Union as a whole. Thus, he wanted to become a figure equal to Erdogan, whom the West allocated billions of dollars to receive migrants from Syria, where there is a war.
However, this venture for the usurper completely failed, because Latvia, Lithuania, and especially Poland showed that, in democratic countries, there are power structures that are professional in every sense. These countries were able to defend their borders. They achieved the support of the entire European Union and NATO and received assistance from the governing bodies of NATO and the EU. Lukashenka’s venture in this regard failed.
The only thing that he succeeded in was that he was able to remind others of himself as a source of danger. Somehow they have already begun to forget about Lukashenka, and now the problem of such a dangerous regime on the border of the European Union and NATO, which is a direct threat to regional security, has become noticeable to all Europeans. They understand now that the Lukashenka problem cannot be silenced just like that - something must be done about it. This does not mean negotiating with him, now everyone is talking together about sanctions and coordinated actions. Analysts already point out that economic sanctions should be aimed not at changing Lukashenka's behavior but at removing him from power.
- Opinions were also divided about the role of Putin in this conflict. Someone says that the conflict is completely planned by the Kremlin, someone notes that it is dangerous for Putin himself. What do you think about this?
- I think it was Lukashenka’s initiative. At first, Putin and the Russian security forces decided not to actively intervene, because there really is an opportunity for them to gain new experience in hybrid operations against European countries. It is not for nothing that the flights of Russian aircraft along the border have intensified - they are monitoring how the security forces of NATO countries react in such a situation.
But it quickly became clear that Lukashenka was failing and Russia was suffering direct economic losses. Huge queues of trucks were formed at the border, crossings in Kuznitsa were closed. Since Russia is very sensitive to transit, these are direct losses for it.
If the railway connection in the same Kuznitsa is still closed, the blow to the Russian economy will be even greater. Because most of the goods that go through the Belarusian-Polish border go on to the Russian Federation.
For Russia, this is the only communication corridor with the EU, because relations with Ukraine have been spoiled. Putin, naturally, will try to curb Lukashenka so that he does not go overboard there. Especially against the background of statements that Lukashenka will cut off a gas pipeline that does not belong to him. This is also far from in the interests of the Russian Federation.
- The head of the Kremlin recently called on Lukashenko to dialogue with the opposition. What can this statement mean?
- Lukashenka has been annoying Putin for a long time, he is an unpredictable vassal. There is confirmed information that the Belarusian dictator promised the head of the Kremlin a transit of power and that he would leave the presidency, but then this decision was delayed. Now Putin has reminded Lukashenka that the agreements must be fulfilled.
We see that Lukashenka does not receive new loans, we see that there is no great love between the rulers. It is quite natural that Russia wants the Lukashist regime to remain in Belarus, but without Lukashenka, and will try to improve its relations with the West by offering the role of a mediator in resolving the Belarusian crisis. Clearly, in its own way, but I would draw the attention of the Belarusian siloviki to the fact that even Russia is interested in resolving the Belarusian crisis.
All Belarusian security officials should think about it. After all, who knows, Babaryka may suddenly become prime minister or president of Belarus tomorrow. What will they do then? Therefore, it is time to return to the rule of law in the country and stop any sadistic actions towards political prisoners.
Here I would like to add that everything will depend on the sovereign actions of the Belarusian people, the Belarusian opposition. One cannot expect that the West, let alone Russia, will decide everything for the Belarusian people, and then the Belarusians will feel good. No, only the people themselves decide their own fate.
- Another hot topic this month is the strike. What have the workers' leaders already achieved, who urged Belarusians to stay at home?
- It seems to me that the Belarusian Workers' Association has demonstrated human and strategic wisdom. After all, morbidity and mortality from coronavirus in Belarus are simply catastrophic. The number of the dead and sick is huge. The workers called on the Belarusians to stay at home, to protect their health and lives.
I once talked with Siarhei Dyleuski, and he said that the worker is wired that way that he does not go to work only when he can literally no longer walk. When he falls.
Workers' leaders urged workers to think about health first. If we are talking about the fact that up to 300 people (and some say 500) die every day, then the minimum number of deaths in Belarus in three months is thirty thousand people. And of these, ten thousand are working people, and twenty thousand are relatives of the working people. This is just a shock for many Belarusian families. The call for the People's Lockdown saves lives.
Secondly, the strike is a defensive reaction to the information that appeared in the summer that mass layoffs are being prepared at enterprises. First of all - members of independent trade unions and those who took part in the strike a year ago.
As a result of the preparation and the strike itself, new horizontal ties are being established. At many enterprises, the authorities realized that these layoffs would not work just like that. Although according to the data that come from enterprises and even government agencies, the scale of possible layoffs is several hundred thousand people.
The wisdom also lies in the fact that a huge number of workers are on vacation, are sick, and many families are in quarantine. Under these conditions, for example, absenteeism for two or three hundred thousand people is equivalent to a whole million not going to work in a normal situation.
There is feedback on this issue: lists of those who did not come to work. In the early days, this was easy to establish. Then the authorities forbade giving information about how many workers are sick, why people are absent. Also, at many enterprises, information about the issuance of inventory was closed. This suggests that, indeed, many did not come to work.
I would also add that the strike revealed people who oppose it. Oddly enough, Lukashenka, Latushka, Tsikhanouskaya, and the formal leader of independent trade unions Yarashuk, who is silent, ended up in the same company. Thousands of people die in the country, there are mass layoffs at enterprises, and the so-called leaders are silent. They supported neither the people nor the strike. But this, in general, is also such a signal to the workers and all Belarusians. Now it is absolutely clear who is ready to defend the interests of the people of labor, who is with them, and who has just their own petty goals.
- You have already touched upon the topic of mass layoffs under the name of “optimization.” Why was it needed?
- We are witnessing the collapse of the Belarusian economy. One of the conditions for Putin's support for Lukashenka is the admission of the Russian capital, Russian oligarchs to the market for buying up Belarusian enterprises. Moreover, first of all, they will be interested not even in the enterprises but in the land, the premises of these factories. We know how predatory privatization took place in Russia. The Russian oligarchs demand the same from Lukashenka. They say: "We will be ready to buy something if you remove the screamers." And you yourself have to "optimize" the number of employees.
After all, if the Russians come and fire people, then the resistance will also have the character of a national liberation struggle. Today, Lukashenka himself carries out mass layoffs, playing the role of such a policeman who destroyed the culture of his people, his language, and now destroys the economy and deprives workers of a piece of bread, simply throwing them out into the street.
We see that this is not a problem of one enterprise, it is a mass phenomenon. I predict that the strike could break out in December with renewed vigor, as hundreds of thousands of people will just find themselves on the streets.
All these draconian laws against activists lead to the fact that people are classified as "parasites." They also record workers who could not leave to work in neighboring countries. There is no normal work in Belarus, and almost a million people want to make them pay exorbitant "parasite" utility rates.
We know this led to massive riots in 2017.
- The Belarusian authorities say that the situation with COVID-19 has begun to improve, but independent media report new victims of the epidemic every day... Why is the regime trying to hide the real scope of the problem?
- He hides it all the time. Just recently, one of the doctors said that Lukashenka initially tried to get the effect of herd immunity without any vaccines. I remember his conversation that 60 percent will get sick, and then no one will become infected.
In the first wave, there was simply terrible mortality. Because of it, herd immunity did appear for a while. However, no one thought about serious vaccination. We didn’t think about purchasing Western vaccines, about making the medical system logistically ready.
In Belarus, after the emergency measures of the last months, only twenty percent were vaccinated. We know that the number of vaccinated people in Western countries is 50-80 percent, but the epidemic has intensified anyway. There are a lot of both sick and dead among the so-called anti-vaxxers.
There are a huge number of people in Belarus who wanted to be vaccinated, but they could not. That is why the scale of morbidity and death, I think, is much stronger than in the EU countries. Although, of course, there are problems in these countries, the statistics cannot be fooled, and even the doctors of the Ministry of Health of Belarus stated that there is already a Belarusian version of the “delta” strain. Its own, special strain, which is several times more dangerous in terms of infection and mortality. In our country, this is simply a national catastrophe, for which Lukashenka, his family, security officials, and heads of the Belarusian healthcare system are responsible.
- How can the Belarusian society today respond to acute challenges - the migrant crisis, the catastrophic situation with COVID-19, mass layoffs at workplaces - and bring the victory over the dictatorship in the country closer at the same time?
- We need to remember the words of Churchill. I will not quote them, many Belarusians know them. I will say that there will be no easy way. There can be no other way - to hide under the covers and assume that the problems will go away by themselves.
We all did a lot together to win. We deserve this victory. The enemy is demoralized, weakened, and wrapped around a new barbed wire of sanctions, which he provokes with his insane actions.
The whole civilized world is on the side of Belarusians. And a home strike is one of the safest ways to resist. I have already said that the economic problems in the country will only grow. Even the official data show that the industry is not developing, but will only decline. We must be ready to fight and be ready for the final decisive battle. It must be remembered that we continue to be in the absolute majority.
Individuals go on strike and close their own businesses. Someone, perhaps, may leave the country, if he considers it acceptable for himself. In today's conditions, this will be a blow to the economy of the regime.
Also, the readiness of young people, the readiness of the patriots of Belarus to fight, and the fact that the moment of liberation is close are important. As has been said many times before, regimes like Lukashenka’s one cease to exist very unexpectedly.
Lukashenka has already brought so many "black swans" upon himself that they flew in and hammer him in the head with their beaks. The Belarusians only need to help these birds to finish off the bastard.