Belarusians need to unite in order to win.
Dzmitry Bandarenka, the coordinator of the European Belarus civil campaign, said this in an interview with the website Charter97.org, commenting on the latest events of the war in Ukraine.
— How do you assess the chances of Ukraine in the battle for Donbas, which may begin in the near future?
— I believe in the ultimate victory of Ukraine in this war. The battle for Donbas will be very, very difficult for the Ukrainian army, because the Russians have a significant advantage in technology, in the air, and in manpower. Much will depend on the support of the West in the coming days and weeks.
— The Times, the British newspaper, writes that Putin wants to achieve an advantage over the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the eastern direction in a ratio of 5 to 1. Why does Russia still use the medieval tactics of warfare, where the main thing is quantitative superiority?
— Don't underestimate the enemy. As for now, Russia is trying to act according to the canons of military science, and the attacking side needs a threefold or fivefold advantage in manpower.
In the initial period of the war, the Russian command showed its complete incompetence when it delivered strikes in five to seven different directions. It was absolute stupidity, and now the Kremlin is setting the task of capturing left-bank Ukraine and, I think, Odesa through this battle in the Donbas. Today, this is the maximum task for Russia, and the minimum task is to preserve the land corridor to Crimea and supply the peninsula with Dnieper water.
I also do not rule out the use of nuclear weapons, because for decades the Soviet army had been training (including back in Zhukov's time) the use of nuclear weapons to break through the defence in depth. In this case, Ukrainian troops have such defences in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Perhaps there are other locations and targets for the use of tactical nuclear weapons. In this way, Russia can try to destroy communications and the Internet in Ukraine.
The battle for Donbas will be the largest military battle in the 21st century.
— Does the West have the political will to take more decisive steps, such as an embargo on Russian gas and oil, the exports bring up to €1 billion a day to the Russian treasury?
— It seems to me that it is the leaders of the American army and NATO countries, namely the military leaders, who most realistically assess and act in the current situation. For many years, the political leadership of the Western countries had no need for leaders who could conduct a strategic fight against dictatorships.
The West has long chosen a convenient and comfortable path, that is, ensuring the standard of living in their countries, world trade, globalization, and could not believe that there are still dictatorships and even states of the fascist type.
Many Western leaders took the path of least resistance instead of facing the truth because it was clear, for example, that Russia needed South Stream and Nord Stream in order to hit Ukraine. The West planned that it would be supplied with gas and would not pay attention to this war.
Now, of course, the situation has changed, but we see that such leaders as Macron, Scholz and even Biden are not quite ready for the role that is required today for the leaders of the civilized world. Biden is probably more realistic but he is already at his age. We can distinguish the leadership of Great Britain, headed by Prime Minister Johnson, who took an explicit policy in the Ukrainian war, and, of course, the leaders of Poland and the Baltic countries, they are the most faithful allies of Ukraine and supporters of effective sanctions against the Russian Federation.
Of course, there is hope for the adoption by one of the chambers of the US Congress of the lend-lease law, which will greatly simplify the supply of American weapons to Ukraine, as well as the statements of the EU foreign policy leaders Borrell and Biden that the fate of Ukraine will be decided through military action.
— Why did Kyiv not impose an embargo on trade with Belarus, although aggression against Ukraine is still taking place from its territory?
— The contradiction in the policy of the democratic leaders of Ukraine has been observed for many years. On the one hand, they represented that part of Ukrainian society that went to the Maidan in 2004-2005, in 2013, which fought against the Russians for freedom and independence.
However, in foreign policy, unfortunately, all the time, Lukashenka personally and his regime have been Ukraine's partner in Belarus. The Ukrainian authorities completely ignored the struggle of Belarusians against Lukashenka's dictatorship and did nothing to help us in 2020.
All warnings of the Belarusian democratic opposition were ignored. The warnings that sooner or later there would be a strike from the "northern balcony", from the territory of Belarus against Ukraine, if the Ukrainian authorities did not help the Belarusian democratic forces, the Belarusian independent media.
Even today we can hear statements by the head of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine Danilov, that they "did not expect an attack from the north," that "they did not believe in it up to the last".
Even though I know that Ukrainian intelligence had all the information. There were warnings about the possibility of helicopter landings from the territory of Belarus. Both British and American intelligence warned about the concentration of troops. But this Ukrainian hope that the crook and murderer Lukashenka could be a partner, led to the fact that the enemy came to Kyiv, which led to tragedies in Bucha, Borodianka and Irpin. Because all these Russian killers, together with the Kadyrovites and Lukashenka's special forces, entered from the territory of Belarus.
I hope that, nevertheless, the Ukrainian authorities will make the same Lukashenka's mistake twice and will be consistent, and will not again buy Belarusian oil products from Russian oil, Russian coal from Belarus, fertilisers, and so on.
The situation in Belarus is catastrophic unlike Russia, which has not yet fully felt the consequences of economic sanctions. Many leading flagships companies simply stopped due to a lack of sales in Belarus. A tearful letter from the international envoy of Lukashenka, a lover of embroidered shirts, Uladzimir Makei, to the European Union, evidences this. In fact, the letter says: “Save Lukashenka's regime.” But Belarusian and Ukrainian journalists need to monitor that all these "business realists" and oligarchs do not start trading with Lukashenka again.
— Lukashenka and Putin are the enemies of independent Belarus today. How can the Belarusian people solve these two problems?
— The Belarusian people can not solve these problems on their own. We need to support the Ukrainian people in their struggle. Because today not only the fate of Ukraine but also the fate of Belarus, the fate of the whole world will largely depend on the actions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, its navy and aviation. We must do everything in order to help Ukrainians to win. We're doing it already.
Belarusian journalists and bloggers have done a lot, because the state of public opinion in Belarus is radically different from the state of public opinion in the Russian Federation. Compared to 2014, the vast majority of Belarusians are on the side of Ukraine and oppose this aggression, especially against the presence of Russian troops in Belarus and air missile strikes from our country.
Everyone should understand very clearly that our battle is inevitable. There is no easy way to change the power. I am convinced that the Putin regime will collapse, and he will simply be removed from power. The inner circle and Russian business are his enemies today.
When Lukashenka's regime collapses, we will have to act, we will also have to make sacrifices. And this will happen soon enough and we must be prepared for this morally, we are to be organised.
— Are there adequate forces in Belarus who are aware of this and are ready to fight?
— Certainly. These are our Belarusian political prisoners, many leaders who are in prison today. Many say that they inspire the Belarusians to fight, and express words of support. These are Mikalai Statkevich, Palina Sharenda-Panasiuk, Siarhei Tsikhanouski, Yauhen Afnahel, Viktar Babaryka and many others who say that we must fight and we will win.
These are, of course, Belarusian volunteers fighting today in Ukraine in the ranks of the Kastus Kalinouski Battalion and other units.
These are Belarusian journalists, and bloggers, whose fantastic work I have already mentioned. These are representatives of the Belarusian diaspora, including businessmen who support the Ukrainian people, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Belarusian volunteers in Ukraine and, of course, many politicians abroad who continue their activities to protect the interests of the Belarusian people and talk about the need for decisive assistance to Ukraine from Western countries and NATO.
Ukrainians were able to rally around the army and President Zelenskyy. Belarusians should rally around the leaders in prisons and Belarusian volunteers.