The Belarusian soldiers are treated with respect and gratitude.
On November 18-20, the annual International Security Forum was held in Halifax, Canada. The leader of the European Belarus civil campaign, Andrei Sannikov, who attended the event, has told the Charter97.org website about the main topics at the forum.
- It was certainly the Ukrainian theme. The forum confirmed the absolute world support for Ukraine in the war against Russian aggression. Not only political, but also economic and military one. The Forum has become an important platform of international solidarity with Ukraine at war.
- Considering the views expressed at the forum, do you think the West is ready to continue supporting Ukraine unconditionally?
- The most important thing there was the speech and the appearance at the forum of US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin. He is not only the Secretary of Defense of the United States, a country that strongly supports Ukraine, but also the driving force behind such a unique phenomenon as Ramstein, which allows more than 50 countries to coordinate their assistance activities to Ukraine, including the military assistance. It was a vibrant and important speech.
All in all, we can say that Austin set the line that everyone followed. Yes, there were some attempts to predict various options, but the prevailing line was that Ukraine deserves worldwide support for its courage, and it is going to get it.
- How often did the topic of Belarus come up on the floor and on the sidelines?
- It was heard and discussed both at the plenary sessions and in informal discussions and conversations. Tsikhanouskaya was there, too. Almost all world topics were discussed through the prism of the war in Ukraine.
For example, the revolution in Iran, the situation of Tibet and Xinjiang in China - serious topics connected with massive violations of human rights. Remarkably, even the representatives of the countries with dictatorial regimes were talking about the importance of Ukraine's victory in the war with Russia.
- You told the head of the Pentagon, Lloyd Austin, about the Kalinouski regiment. What other meetings did you manage to hold?
- I would divide my meetings into two parts. The forum in Halifax is really unique. Firstly, there were the officials. I talked to them all about the situation in Belarus, I talked to them all about the Kalinouski Regiment, about this phenomenon that the military and politicians should know about.
I met and talked with the patron of the forum, Defense Minister of Canada Anita Anand, with the Commander-in-Chief of Swedish Armed Forces Mikael Biden, with the head of the NATO Military Committee Admiral Rob Bauer, with high-ranking military officials who were present there.
I can say that there was considerable interest in Belarusian volunteers fighting for Ukraine and Belarus. The talks, of course, will be continued.
The second part, very important for me, was meetings with eminent persons from different parts of the world where the level of repression is the same as in Belarus, or even worse. For example, with my friends Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress, and Lobsang Sangay, former president of Tibet and a social activist; with David Smoliansky, former mayor of a district of Caracas, a Venezuelan who is now working for the benefit of his people in the United States; with Masih Alinejad, a prominent figure of the protest movement in Iran; with Afghans, Cubans and Africans.
It is very important for us to exchange opinions because the situation is difficult everywhere and once we know each other's needs in detail, we can talk about general trends in troubled countries in our conversations with Western officials.
I would like to mention separately the meetings with Ukrainians, both officials and those who have come from the front, returned from captivity and are involved in helping the Ukrainian armed forces. I was very pleased that they all know about the Kalinouski Regiment and treat our soldiers with respect and gratitude.
- You have been saying for a long time and consistently that there will be no safe Europe and free Ukraine without free Belarus. After Lukashenka became an accomplice to the war in Ukraine, do people in the West understand it?
- Nobody likes it and I try to avoid saying "I warned you". Yes, I did warn, I'm not the only one, lots of people from Belarus warned and understood what was going on.
This time I was not focusing on that a different policy could have been established, I was talking about what has to be done today.
I think there is an understanding that Belarus is not only an accomplice in the war against Ukraine, but also that if there were no Lukashenka in Belarus, the war might not have ever happened.