Negotiations on new elections in Belarus may take place in Vienna.
Can strikes make a difference in the country? Will the authorities agree to direct negotiations with the participation of workers' leaders? Will the pressure on the Lukashenka regime be increased if a strike starts in Belarus? How will Russia react to the workers' protest? Leader of the European Belarus civil campaign Andrei Sannikov told about this in an interview to the website Charter97.org.
- Mr. Sannikov, the Belarusian revolution has been going on for over a year. How would you assess the state of the warring parties?
- It is clear that the revolution is now in a different phase because the criminals in power are trying to hold on to their chairs with the help of repression. Naturally, people are looking for the forms of protest that are not associated with direct confrontation. This is normal and correct. The main thing is that the protest has not faded away; moreover, it has entered new areas and acquired a strong international dimension. Partisan actions take place in Belarus every day. It is very important that they are held under our flag, which symbolizes not only protest, but also the independence and statehood of Belarus.
Cyber partisans are also a protest. Support for Belarusians abroad is also support for the protest.
The entire Belarusian people want one thing: a speedy change of government in order to live a normal life. This was the main goal of the protests that began a year ago, and this desire has only grown stronger.
- And what is the state of Lukashenka's regime?
- You can talk about a group of people who seized power in the country, and not about the regime. The regime that controlled the situation for many years (primarily in the economy) no longer exists. Lukashenka does not control the situation, he only controls the security officials, whom he incites to repressions against civilians.
They are trying to drive people into the stall, but this will not work. Despite the repressions, people become free, and it is precisely the slaves who serve the master who are opposed to them.
- You actively advocated real economic sanctions against the Lukashenka regime. Today we see that restrictive measures have led to the fact that international partners refuse to work with Belarusian enterprises. How does this affect the situation in Belarus?
- Sanctions are support for people's demands to change the political system in Belarus, sanctions are a tool to help political prisoners. The first demand related to the sanctions is to release all, I emphasize, all political prisoners in Belarus.
I not only now, but also earlier called for sanctions against the Lukashenka regime. If they had not been lifted every now and then, if in 2015 it had not been decided to terminate the sanctions against a group of criminals, then I am sure that today there would not be such a terrible situation. The dictatorship must be stopped at an early stage, and not allowed to raise its head.
- Belarusian workers put forward a number of demands to the Belarusian authorities and declared a pre-strike state in Belarus. How do you assess this initiative?
- I appreciate it. The fact that the workers made such an appeal means that they have a good understanding of the situation in the country. Nobody will have the opportunity to live and work in Belarus if this regime persists.
For workers who believed it was better to be patient but get a small but guaranteed wage, this humiliating element of attraction disappeared. Earnings will be lower and lower, and there will be fewer rights.
I believe that the demands of direct negotiations with representatives of the democratic forces with the participation of workers' leaders are very rightly put forward. Perhaps this is the link that was lacking in order to form a picture of the way out of the crisis into which Lukashenka led the country. There are usually two ways out of such situations: the assassination of the dictator by his entourage (Ceausescu in Romania) or direct negotiations on a change of power and the holding of fair elections (Poland and Czechoslovakia).
- How do you see these negotiations? In what form should they take place?
- Approaches to these negotiations have already been outlined, and in some aspects they are already underway, although not direct. The basic demands of the Belarusian people are well known: the release of all political prisoners and the holding of new elections. All this is the main subject of negotiations.
As far as I understand, there is no disagreement with this either among democratically minded leaders, or among activists, or among the people in general. These goals are supported by the entire Belarusian society. It is for these purposes that the sanctions are also aimed. After all, sanctions are introduced so that the situation changes, and the situation can change bloodlessly after the negotiations on new elections.
As for the form of negotiations, there are many of them. I drew attention to the fact that in the address of the workers we are talking about direct negotiations, this is correct. I believe that there should be direct and transparent negotiations, not imitation or some behind-the-scenes agreements.
I stand for face-to-face and direct negotiations, which would not take place in Belarus, but, for example, in Vienna, in order to ensure the safety of all participants. They should be held on specific agenda items put forward by the people.
This is what you need to bet on. We cannot talk about preserving the regime or its remnants, but about changing the political system, holding fair elections.
- In your opinion, should we expect even more powerful international pressure on the regime if a strike starts in Belarus? How will Russia act?
- Russia is still trying to fish in troubled waters, it does not act as a serious player, unfortunately, but is looking for where to get profit. I can see that there is neither understanding of our situation nor the meaning of normal Belarus in Russia, even in its current undemocratic state, just the same as before.
Russia is still following Lukashenka's whims, although it is forced to discuss the Lukashenka problem with world leaders. Precisely a strike can propel it to join not only the discussion, but also the search for a solution to this problem.
I think that here the West and democratic countries, especially considering the conflicts that Lukashenka is fanning at the borders, should take a leading position, introduce serious sanctions until our demands are met.
It is precisely possible to reach the fulfillment of these requirements through negotiations.