The head of the Kremlin is losing both in Ukraine and on the field of sanctions.
Former Lithuanian Prime Minister and MEP Andrius Kubilius commented on the latest events related to Russia's war against Ukraine in an interview with Charter97.org:
— Why did Putin decide to go to war? A major reason is that he started to feel that his regime is becoming weaker and weaker. Putin saw the whole panorama how authoritarian regimes in the entire post-Soviet area are starting to lose the loyalty of the people.
And, of course, Belarusian developments in 2020 was a major breakthrough showing that people do not want anymore to live with the same dictator for 27 years. So, Putin started to understand that similar things can develop in Russia. That is why he became much more tough on internal opposition. He became afraid very much. That is why he tried to poison Navalny then put him into jail.
The recent events in Kazakhstan were additional evidence that even some kind of Nazarbayev-type of transition model is not able to keep people’s loyalty.
And that is why Putin became desperate. So in some way, the reason why he went to the war — is simply because he is feeling a challenge for the survival of his regime.
Also, at the last Duma elections in September last year, (at least if you look into the real data, which were shown by Russian experts) Yedinaya Rossiya got only 31% and not 50%, as in so-called official reports.
30% for Putin’s party in Russia, for me it looked something similar to what Lukashenka got in the presidential elections, 25-30 percent, but Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya got somewhere 60-65%.
So, that is where we are now: Putin went to the war. Maybe he has additional reasons. As a whole, the decision for me looks totally insane as the math in it, but that's what he did because he started to feel that his power is becoming weakened.
What's about civil society — of course, civil society in Russia now is under bigger pressure than it was before the war: all the communication channels are closed. We are keeping some kinds of consultations with prominent leaders who are outside of Russia. And we are looking at what can be done.
For time being it's difficult to see how the future will develop. In my view, Putin made a major mistake. He will lose the war. He is losing in the military fields of Ukraine and he is losing in his economy against Western sanctions. Sanctions are really hitting very heavily, and they will be even broader.
I hope that Europe will also come with an embargo on oil which brings a lot of money to Putin. My goal now is to have very clear declaration of the western community, that all sanctions which now are introduced would stay till the last Russian soldier will leave Ukrainian territory, which means not only those cities which are occupied now, like Kherson or Chernobyl but also the cities which were occupied back in 2014.
And that is where I see what I call depunisation of Russia. And that is where I see what I call depunisation of Russia. If the Western community will be tough, and if in a military field Ukrainians — with the Western assistance, with the guns provided by Poland, by America, by Britain, by Baltic states — will stay quite strong, the depunisation of Russia can start. And then we shall see about a totally different world: there will be different Russia, different Ukraine, different Europe and even different Belarus.
— Is the West ready to impose a complete embargo on gas and oil from Russia?
— We wrote it very clear in a recent open letter which was signed by one hundred members of the European Parliament. I think it's quite a broad consensus inside of the European Parliament that also the EU should introduce an embargo on oil and gas.
Previously, the EU was paying each day into the pockets of Putin between 170 million up to 220 million. Now we're paying 600 million per day and even more.
I asked military experts the cost of one Russian tank. And they said that the older one is around 1.5 million, and the new one is around 3 million. So, if you calculate: 600 million per day and 1.5 million per tank, that means that we are paying for 400 tanks per day.
I see possibilities that Europe will move into that embargo, maybe, starting with oil. And this is very important because it appears that for oil we are paying much more than for gas. So, this is why the oil embargo is the first priority.
I hope that the gas embargo and coal embargo (which is less important) will follow. And Americans and British introduced full embargoes, so Europeans should follow the same path.
And then, when embargoes will be introduced, I'm pretty sure that also all the Russian banks will also be excluded from the SWIFT system. Because now Europeans are very worried that they will not have a possibility to pay for gas. Therefore Gazprombank and Sberbank, the two most important banks are left without SWIFT sanctions.
— U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE has labeled Belarusian officials as co-aggressors. What is the responsibility of Lukashenka personally and his top military commanders in the ongoing aggression against Ukraine?
— We put similar language in the special resolution, which was passed on the 1st of March, devoted to the war against Ukraine. We spoke about Belarus and about Lukashenka responsibility and also about sanctions which now are introduced against the Russian economy, that they should be introduced also against the Belarusian economy. That is what we are working on.
I recently had a consultation with Pavel Latushka. But for the time being our major attention is of course devoted to Ukraine, simply because of what is happening. So, we know all the concerns of democratic Belarusians but, to put it simply, now we are talking much more [in the European Parliament] about Ukraine.
And we also spoke about the International Tribunal. There are prominent initiatives on brining Putin towards the Tribunal: Ukrainian, Lithuanian. As I understand, there are many governments which are ready to support it.
There is a very important British civil society initiative which is led by the former prime minister of Britain Gordon Brown. That initiative includes major international lawyers with whom we were talking before just initially, very intensively about the Tribunal specifically for Lukashenka, for his crimes against Belarusian people. Now, I see all these labels and definitions are being used in this tribunal initiative on Putin but definitely, I am pretty sure that Lukashenka will be invited also to take his seat next to Putin.