The regime in Belarus will follow the Russian one in footsteps.
In an interview with Charter97.org, Dzmitry Bandarenka, coordinator of the European Belarus civil campaign, says the events in Ukraine will be a chance for the Belarusian people to fight the dictatorship.
- What intermediate results of the three-week confrontation of the Ukrainian people against Russian aggressors could you bring up?
- I can say a new era began after February 24. There has been no such serious war on the European continent in the twenty-first century. Although there was the seizure of Crimea and the occupation of Donbas, the world did not expect such satanic actions from Putin's Russia. But the West faced the threat and responded to it collectively and decisively.
As for the military operation, these three weeks of war showed the weakness of the Russian army due to its technological backwardness. The Russian soldiers were simply deceived and did not expect such resistance when entering Ukraine and had no motivation to fight decisively.
The world was surprised by the actions of the Ukrainian army, the solidarity of the Ukrainian people, although we all knew of a fierce political struggle there, the criticism of the authorities from different sides. At the moment of the challenge, the Ukrainian people united and together with the army managed to stop the attacking hordes of Russians. They proved that the Ukrainian army could act at a high professional level and these years after the first aggression, these eight years, served as a ground for the Ukrainian military leadership to create a really capable army.
- Will Ukraine win this war?
- I am sure that Ukraine will win, if it does not seek peace agreements at any cost. Because we see that Russia is copying its actions in Syria. We remember that when the negotiations began under Russian patronage and with Iran's participation, dictator Assad controlled about 20 percent of Syria's territory. When those negotiations began, accompanied by the horrific aerial bombing by Russian aircraft and the brutal actions of pro-Iranian armed forces on Syrian territory, the situation resulted in the current Assad control of 70 per cent of Syrian territory. Hundreds of thousands of people have died and millions of refugees appeared.
With all the horror that Russia is doing, one cannot trust it and negotiate at any cost. It will use it hard for its purposes. If Ukraine is determined and consistent as it is now, then it will get all the support in the world. I think the military support from the civilised world will also increase and then Ukraine's victory could be very close and devastating for Russia. The determination of the Ukrainian army and the strong support of the West could lead to the fall of Putin's regime in Russia in the very near future, within literally a few months.
- How badly will the sanctions that have been imposed hit the Russian economy? What consequences might they have for the Kremlin?
- I once talked to a Polish expert, back during the first aggression, and he said that Putin was not a stupid man. He said Putin could not start a war in the 21st century. Not geopolitics but geo-economics runs the world now. I predicted then that Putin would still start a war and would not stop.
However, I hope geo-economics will win now, because a country that has a GDP of 1.7 per cent of the world economy cannot go to war against the whole world. The sanctions have already hit the Russian economy terribly hard.
We observe businesses closing, hundreds of thousands, millions of Russians losing jobs, the foreign exchange reserves of Russia being frozen. The moral aspect in the economy turns out to be crucial as well. The withdrawal of world corporations from the Russian market strikes an even bigger blow, perhaps, than the sanctions imposed by the governments of democratic countries.
Russian oligarchs have realised that Putin is not only not a guarantor of their interests but their personal enemy. Just in a few days, many of them have turned into beggars, lost hundreds of billions of dollars and their wealth in the West has simply been seized. Since Russia has an oligarchic regime anyway, I think big business will eventually just dump this mad Kremlin gang.
- How will China behave in this situation?
- I used to say that Russia is a monkey that is dragging burning chestnuts out of the fire for China because China is in fierce competition with the United States. In the next 20 years, there will be a fierce struggle for world hegemony. Will the US remain this world hegemon or China become the world hegemon?
So far, China cannot become the world's first power, but it is probing the ground. Putin has no way out because at the start of his reign he had an economy in Russia that exceeded China's GDP and today Russia's economy is 1/11th of China's.
China's economy is such that its main partner is the EU. At the beginning, he was planning with the EU a new "silk road" that would go through Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Now Putin has practically hit China's interests. He would have dragged chestnuts but not at such a cost.
It seems to me that China will not go to war with the whole world, the US, the EU, Japan at the moment. It simply is not ready for it. And it is preferable for it to see what happens to Russia as a result of this war. At least China hopes it won't lose. In the event of Russia's defeat and eventual collapse, it will have Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation at its disposal. Instead of seeking allies in the West to protect Russia's tidbits with the entire Mendeleev Table, the Russians have somehow turned against the rest of the world.
- How will Lukashenka's involvement in aggression against Ukraine affect his regime?
- Lukashenka goes to the limit. He had no way out because Putin had saved him in 2020. That is why the territory was granted for aggression. We have information that Belarusian artillerymen also took part in shelling of the Ukrainian territory. Pilots took part, special forces, small units were on Ukrainian territory and even motorised rifle units went in, but they had to return because the Belarusian soldiers refused to fight.
Today the Lukashenka regime has fallen under sanctions, the consequences of sanctions against Russia. Lukashenka's fate is closely linked to that of Putin. I think the regime will have catastrophic problems in the near future. Lukashenka won't get away with it as he did in 2014. Everyone calls his regime an accomplice to aggression against Ukraine.
- What are other reasons why the dictator was afraid to fully engage Belarusian soldiers in the invasion of Ukraine?
- It is said that Lukashenka did not send troops. No, Lukashenka ordered the troops to enter but it was sabotaged by generals and officers at the middle level. The reason is that the Belarusian army is made up of young people who are actively involved in protests against Lukashenka and the Belarusian dictatorship.
There is a real threat to the dictatorship. There's a chance that the Belarusian armed forces will act against Lukashenka and the Russian troops. But I would like to say that it did not happen spontaneously, this is the difference between the Russians and the Belarusians. Belarusians' real assessment of the war in Ukraine relates to the good work of Belarusian journalists, independent media and many Belarusian bloggers.
Because Russia had some good liberal media, but the majority of the population watched only Russian propaganda. The level of understanding of the real situation in Ukraine for Belarus is much higher than for Russia. Therefore, the Belarusians (including those in the army) have an opportunity to receive the unbiased information from various sources, albeit not in the easiest way. Thanks to it, the majority of the Belarusians are on the side of Ukraine fighting for freedom and independence.
- What can the Belarusians do today to help Ukraine and bring its freedom closer?
- Do what they do. It is necessary to help financially the Armed Forces of Ukraine and humanitarian organizations in Ukraine. There are special accounts for this purpose and Belarusians, especially those who have foreign accounts, business abroad, can provide direct assistance to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
I know that the Belarusian diaspora around the world helps the Ukrainian refugees in every way they can: from protest actions to volunteering, assistance to Ukrainians. I know that hundreds, thousands of Belarusians in Poland come to the border in their cars, transport Ukrainians to their new homes, volunteer in various humanitarian organizations, both Polish and international, and help in solidarity actions across the country.
Of course, those who feel strong, healthy and have military specialization can go to fight in Ukraine directly, as the soldiers of volunteer battalion named after Kastus Kalinouski do in Ukraine, and also the Belarusians fighting in other units of the AFU, National Guard and Territorial Defense of Ukraine.
Because the slogan "For your and our freedom!" is more relevant than ever. No one will do our work and part of our struggle for us.
I predict the economic situation will worsen in Russia and even faster in Belarus. As one million Belarusians will lose their jobs and their income level will drop drastically, we should be ready for a general strike. This is an inevitable part, but it will no longer be caused by economic reasons. It will be a political strike demanding Lukashenka's resignation and the withdrawal of Russian troops. It is quite possible.
While in the 1990s, the Chechens fought for the independence of Belarus. Russia was afraid then to occupy Belarus. The Ukrainians are fighting for our freedom, but our struggle is yet to come, we will have to make these decisive steps. In this situation, it is preferable to avoid bloodshed and territorial losses.
The moment Putin's regime in Russia starts to collapse, the regime in Belarus will also collapse. It is not a matter of perspective, all this will happen this year. We must be ready for it. We must be united, learn unity from Ukrainians, help our armed groups in creation, work with our neighbours, especially with those who deal with the Armed Forces, who have such an opportunity, and get ready for our fight in Belarus.
After the fall of Putin's regime, we will have to join the European Union and most probably NATO. Then there will be no need to stake on some pro-Russian politicians. Russia will be busy with its problems. It will simply have no time for Ukraine and Belarus.