Absolutely everyone wants changes in the country.
European Belarus coordinator Zmitser Bandarenka said so in an interview with Charter97.org.
- The continuous protests in Belarus have been going on for 271 days already. Let's consider what has been achieved during this time, at what point of the revolution we are today?
- We have managed to achieve a lot. For example, quite recently there has been announced a document of the participants in the meeting of G7 foreign ministers, which speaks about the necessity of new presidential elections in Belarus and the release of all those arrested for political reasons.
Such a document shows that the Belarusian issue is discussed at the highest international level, it is an acknowledgement that the Belarusian people have indeed expressed their will for changes both during the elections and during the months-long protests against their falsification. It has never been the case that Belarus was spoken about at such high levels.
A revolution implies some periods of attack and some defensive periods - now we are in defense, which is also an integral part of the revolutionary process.
There are times when everything happens in a few days, but since we do have a totalitarian regime, our struggle goes on.
I will express my opinion: we are dealing not only with the Belarusian revolution, we are dealing with the regional revolution, which has started in Ukraine, where the Ukrainian people have stood up against attempts to establish a dictatorship. The Belarusians now want changes for the better, they want the country to become similar to European countries. In my opinion, we can also see the revolutionary processes in Russia, where Putin's regime looks backward and archaic against the background of new technologies, against the background of the young generation of Russians aspiring to live in a civilized country.
- If we talk about the situation of the regime, one of the markers is the case of the so-called conspiracy against Lukashenka. What consequences does it have?
- I would say a few words about the reasons for this event. In my opinion, this propaganda campaign called "Conspiracy" has been organized by the Russian side. We know that at the very beginning of this whole story, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova made a public statement that the expulsion of 18 Russian spies-diplomats from the Czech Republic and other countries was aimed at blocking the "most important event - the plot against Lukashenka". Zakharova herself tried to act as a spin doctor, someone who tries to change the unfavorable media coverage of some event, but acted like a classic thief who shouted "keep the thief" about others. This is simply ridiculous.
If there was a conspiracy against Lukashenka, why was it the Czech Republic that decided to expel 18 Russian diplomats, in order to change the subject, the information agenda?
The situation looks like the Russians knew that this expulsion would happen, the scandal would be huge, and all this would be followed by sanctions, because it was actually proved that there were military activities, operations on the territory of a NATO country.
The evidence of Russian involvement in those explosions, which caused casualties, was a strong blow to Moscow in every way, both politically and in terms of information. The Kremlin wanted to draw the attention away, to try to change the subject. That is where they asked Lukashenka: "Sasha, help us, hit off a conspiracy". And he did it the way he and his degraded special services could.
It is absolutely clear why it caused laughter in Belarus. Fiaduta and Kastusiou were appointed as the main conspirators. Surely, these are figures who can in no way be considered conspiracy masterminds, yet there was an attempt to sell this, let's say, improvisation to the Russian audience. It didn't work neither here nor there, and no one knows now what to do with this conspiracy.
In this situation, we can only laugh and feel sorry for the people who have been assigned the role of "scapegoats". In fact, every Belarusian family is part of the plot against Lukashenka. Every kitchen today is discussing what to do with Lukashenka: to hang, to shoot, or to quarter.
- One often hears that the decisive event for the victory in August would be the move of the security forces to the side of the people. In recent days there has been information about the ban on emigration of MIA and KGB officers from Belarus, stripping 87 officers of their ranks, and mass "optimization" in various agencies. Could such measures affect the move of law enforcement officers to the side of the people in the future?
- If we talk about August 2020 - then the situation was very tenuous for the regime. It should be understood here that Lukashenka, as a coward, refused to run for election on an equal footing with people like Statkevich, Babaryka, and Tsikhanouski. He simply put them in jail, and made housewife Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya his only opponent. Lukashenka lost the elections spectacularly, but realized that a woman without any experience would not be the figure to whom the Belarusian security services would swear.
If Statkevich, Babaryka or Tsikhanouski had won the election (and each of them would have done so), it is clear that the majority of the power structures' leaders would have sided with the winner in August. It was difficult for the security services to swear allegiance to frightened Tsikhanouskaya.
Further events showed that the army did not want to carry out Lukashenka's criminal orders; the heads of the army tried in every possible way to avoid carrying out these orders. We remember when Lukashenka was running around with a machine gun, even gave his underage son a combat weapon, just to get the support of the riot police, who were protecting him. All of that showed that his power was really hanging on a thread.
On the other hand, we can say that there are many real heroes among the officers, non-commissioned officers and privates of the army, police and internal troops, people who understand their oaths as protection of citizens, and not as compliance with the criminal orders of a mad dictator.
Not only 87 people, but hundreds and thousands of people resigned during this time, sabotaging Lukashenka's orders. Naturally, the perennial selection of the power structures, when the staff was recruited not by their professional qualities, but by their readiness to carry out any order, or, perhaps, people with an unhealthy mentality were hired, had an impact. Unfortunately, at that time a lot of law enforcement officers became criminals, using force against their own people, as well as torture and abuse of illegally detained civilians.
Now there is a comedown, as they also read the information that cases are being brought against Belarusian criminals in uniform in different countries on the basis of universal jurisdiction. An international platform has already been created which is preparing documents against the leaders of the Belarusian regime for the UN and the Hague Court. The facts concerning thousands of cases of law enforcement bodies' illegal actions are being collected.
The resolution of the question, whose side the representatives of power structures will be on, will largely depend on the reasonable actions of the Belarusian protest leaders.
No doubt, it is necessary to work with security forces, even if they have committed crimes, and to explain them what the situation in the country is like now and what the criminals may expect in the future. Since our victory in the revolution is inevitable, I think that a significant part of the Belarusian military, police and other security agencies will eventually side with the people.
- Speaking of geopolitics, Lukashenka has recently begun talking about cutting off transit through Belarus. In a global sense, may such actions bring closer the realization that both the West and the East need a stable and treaty-compliant head of Belarus?
- Undoubtedly, for Lukashenka will not only cut off deliveries of Western goods to Russia and China, as he says. He will cut off the general transit, and the parties that will suffer significant losses will be the European Union, and also Russia, China and other countries. This statement shows his mental inadequacy and you are absolutely right to say that working out a joint decision between the key world players and the countries neighboring Belarus on how to solve the Lukashenka issue will be speeded up. I can say that the decision will not be in his favor.
- Before the August events, the mainstream among Belarusian analysts and political scientists was that "the elections will follow the 2015 scenario, the regime is monolithic, and the opposition is weak". You and other European Belarus representatives were saying that the situation in Belarus is revolutionary. On what factors did you base your prognosis?
- The protests of disgruntled Belarusians, the "non-parasite" marches in 2017 showed that the Belarusian people did not want to tolerate the current situation any longer.
Simultaneously, those events became a feedback signal for all Belarusians: what common women, men, and young people were saying, for example, in Pinsk, was very similar to what people felt in Vitsebsk. At the protests in Brest, people were saying things understandable for the residents of Homel. Then, the geographical coverage and the massive scale of the protests proved that the life of common people in Belarus was very hard.
The second factor suggests that it is time to change Lukashenka, he is no longer expressing the interests of a large group of the ruling class: either officials, or the absolute majority of the power structures, or the directorate, because these people would like to live a normal life.
A lot of them have cottages, property, "factories" that are still state-owned but are actually under their control, and many of them have accounts abroad. A lot of them would like to do business legally and fairly and travel the world in peace.
The dictator's behavior during coronavirus, which led to the deaths of tens of thousands of Belarusians, including officials, and law enforcement officers, relatives and friends of civil servants, showed that Lukashenka is simply inadequate; he is dangerous for everyone. When so many civil servants supported people from the system - Babarykoa or Tsepkala - and when the authorities admit that so many security officers signed up for their nomination as a presidential candidate, it becomes clear that the time of the collective-farm dictator has passed.
The authorities have also brought the economy of the country to a standstill. The absolute majority of citizens live very badly, and Belarus is already practically on the last place in Europe in terms of the wages.
The authorities' inability to manage the economy shows that our revolution will inevitably end with victory, because it is impossible to live on credit alone.
We can see the pace at which the public debt, total gross debt is increasing, including in the banking sector, at large enterprises and joint-stock companies. Things are moving toward a denouement, but I guess the change of power will not happen by itself, but only with our active participation.
- How can we bring the denouement closer?
- We should not hope that someone will be able to solve our problems. With all the attention in the world to the Belarusian situation, this does not spare the Belarusians from concrete actions aimed at changing the power in the country. We, the leaders of the European Belarus civic campaign and many other politicians, have said that there is a series of actions that would bring us closer to the liberation of the country. These are international sanctions, strikes and street protests.
We can see that sanctions are already in effect; we can see that the Belarusian diaspora in many countries holds rallies with demands to impose sanctions against Lukashenka's regime and release all political prisoners.
We can see that the protests are still taking place, although these are partisan activities, which is typical of the Belarusians, but, as many people I talk to in Belarus say, the hatred for the regime is only growing. I think that within a few months there will be a decisive battle between good and evil in Belarus, and Lukashenka and his associates will be sent to the dump.