21 March 2023, Tuesday, 16:41
Sim Sim, Charter 97!

“Economic Sanctions Will Strangle Lukashenka’s Regime in No Time”

“Economic Sanctions Will Strangle Lukashenka’s Regime in No Time”

We need to act quickly and decisively.

The action of Belarusian activists started near the building of the European Commission in Warsaw. Stanislava Hlinnik, granddaughter of the first leader of Belarus Stanislau Shushkevich, and Bozhena Shamovich declared an open-ended hunger strike with a demand to impose tough economic sanctions against Lukashenka's regime. Also, Belarusians demand Europe recognize the regime in Minsk as a terrorist one.

The activists of the Belarusian diaspora put up tents to stay round the clock near the institution, collect signatures under an appeal to European politicians and try to draw the attention of the inhabitants of the Polish capital to the developments in their homeland.

A journalist of Charter97.org visited the action in Warsaw and talked to the courageous Belarusians.

Journalist of Charter97.org: Tell us why you decided to take such a radical step. What was the last nail in the coffin?

Stanislava Hlinnik: We see that the sanctions should have been imposed in full after the brutal events in August. We cannot get why after numerous repressions, broken human lives, a wave of migration, the European Union does business with Belarus and remains in second place among the partners of the regime after Russia.

Why does Poland sell potash fertilizers produced by Grodno Azot and Belaruskali? Why is Orlen planning to sign a contract with Belarusian Oil Company?

There are a lot of examples. It all could have been stopped at the state level by imposing tough and prompt sanctions.

Today, the economy of Belarus is going down. Europe can introduce tough sanctions, which can strangle the regime in no time while we are going to begin to restore our country.

Bozhena Shamovich: If we talk about the reason for the hunger strike, Stasja and I made a decision on Sunday when Raman Pratasewich and his girlfriend were detained.

Stanislava Hlinnik: Captured.

Bozhena Shamovich: Captured, exactly. We were so shocked. It was the last nail in the coffin of despair. Last week, there was the "student case", the blocking of tut.by.

Stanislava Hlinnik: The death of Vitold Ashurak.

Bozhena Shamovich: Yes, death. We realized that it happened in just one week. As if the whole world forgot about us and does not want to talk about it. No one hears the cry of Belarus. We decided upon tougher methods and went on a hunger strike. I think it worked because a lot of Polish media arrived.

Stanislava Hlinnik: And not only Polish.

Bozhena Shamovich: We do our best to make the topic of Belarus relevant, make people remember that there are still political prisoners in Belarus. Their official number exceeds 400 people. Only official! More than 10 people were killed. It's an official number! We do not know the exact number of victims. We are here to draw attention to this, to make the topic of Belarus relevant.

Journalist of Charter97.org: In many countries, the diaspora chooses the Belarusian embassy as a picket point. Why did you choose the building of the European Commission?

Stanislava Hlinnik: We demand only one thing from the Belarusian embassy: to leave the building they occupy. We understand that European mechanisms work in Europe; MPs and parliamentarians listen to people. So we appeal to them and know that they will hear us. Poland has a normal democratic society; politicians are here to help people. Hence, we appeal to European parliamentarians and have chosen the form of hunger-strike, because it attracts attention. It is a very radical form. We want the topic of Belarus to remain acute.

Reporter of Charter97.org: Tell us, how do people in Warsaw react to your move? Do they approach you? Do they express their support?

Stanislava Hlinnik: There are a lot of words of support. It is clear that some people do not understand what we are doing here, but they are few.

They say that Poland is divided according to political views: there is left and right wing. As for the Belarusian issue, everyone agrees that this regime has to leave.

Bozhena Shamovich: Some people are already very prepared.

Stanislava Hlinnik: They have seen it on TV and come.

Bozhena Shamovich: The hunger strike worked. The media became interested in the topic of Belarus, as well as Warsaw. They come and hug and give books, cry out in Belarusian: "Long Live Belarus! It's amazing.

Stanislava Hlinnik: A representative of the European Commission has come to us. He said he was aware of what was happening here; he is also aware of the situation in Belarus and will do his best to help us.

Reporter Charter97.org: You represent the Belaruski Moladzevi Hub - an organization that collects signatures for the introduction of sanctions against Lukashenka's regime, urges the Belarusians in Poland to participate in it. How can real economic sanctions affect the regime?

Stanislava Hlinnik: We urge to impose sanctions on state-owned enterprises. They are oil refineries - Belneftekhim, Naftan, Belarusian Oil Company. Also fertilizers - Belaruskali, Grodno Azot. Also woodworking industry. We've added Pinskdrev to our list. As far as we know, IKEA either plans or already produces its products from Belarusian wood. Their plants locate in Bialystok. It's time to stop it.

Journalist Charter97.org: One of your demands is the recognition of Lukashenka's regime as a terrorist. Why do you consider Lukashenka a terrorist?

Stanislava Hlinnik: The Sunday events were an act of international terrorism. He hijacked the plane. He held hostages, not citizens of Belarus, for eight hours. He stepped on the international arena. We're not just asking to recognize him as a terrorist, we're asking to recognize Lukashenka as an international terrorist.

What else can we call him? He retains power, has a gang, they shoot.

Bozhena Shamovich: They capture international planes.

Journalist of Charter97.org: Many people note that the diaspora abroad has become a crucial force lately. What can the Belarusians, who are outside the country, do today?

Bozhena Shamovich: First of all, talk about Belarus. We often see that when people flee, they try to forget it, hide from the problems that were at home. It's a protective response. However, it's important to talk and remind people what happens in your country. It's crucial to unite. Because, unfortunately, Belarusians abroad suffer from a tug-of-war. For us to act as a united force that protects the people, we should be their voice and stand with them.

Stanislava Hlinnik: The Belarusian diaspora has gained unprecedented strength today. Moreover, we have an IT-country, literate and educated people who can protest even being abroad.

Many coordinators of protest chats are abroad; the authors of assistance projects are both inside and outside of Belarus. Here we can finish what the Belarusians have started.