Who are the real leaders of free Belarus?
Two years have passed since the beginning of the Belarusian revolution. What has been achieved? Who are the main heroes and anti-heroes of our time? The website Charter97.org talked about this with the coordinator of the European Belarus Сivil Сampaign Dzmitry Bandarenka.
— Indeed, this is a very important event in the history of our state. The whole world started talking about Belarus thanks to our revolution. They were written about in all international media, and on all the leading TV channels of the world. They were talking about events in our country for many months. Of course, we can only be proud of what happened in 2020. Prior to this, the majority of Belarusians did not accept the Lukashenka regime but did not participate in the resistance intensively. That is, the heroes were fighting for many years, but unfortunately, there were few of them. Although there were actions with thousands of participants: The 2006 and 2010 Squares, Freedom Marches and action when angry Belarusians rebelled against the "Parasites Decree".
What were the mistakes? There were people who had been making this revolution for many years and they stood at the forefront, they started this powerful protest. Mikalai Statkevich, Pavel Sieviaryniets, Yauhen Afnahel, Maksim Viniarski, Siarhei Tsikhanouski… But, unfortunately, these people ended up in Lukashenka's torture chambers soon. And then there were those characters who failed the revolution, such as Viachorka, Pratasevich, Tikhanouskaia and Latushka. This foam, which was on the crest of a wave, may not even have set a goal for the victory. Methods of violent or non-violent resistance are now being actively discussed. But in any case, when people are fighting for power, they demand appearances on television, on the radio, blockade state buildings, and do not engage in many hours of senseless walking. The revolution is usually on the rise, but for some reason, they came out only on Sundays, there were no real attempts to free our comrades, leaders who were in prison.
Therefore, we can say that these individuals, who failed the revolution, were still in sight for some time and attributed successes to themselves, but they did not admit at all that the protests died down and the change of power in the country did not happen mainly because of their actions.
Probably, there is also an objective aspect of the case. Most people who are now, for example, in exile, say: "I was not involved in politics until 2020." It always evokes my emotional response. And what, you didn’t have eyes, what, your brain didn’t work? You must know which country you are living in.
However, we probably had to go through a stage when tens of thousands of people had to get a new hard experience: to be subjected to repression, go through prisons, and improve their characters.
We know that the elites completely changed in Poland after 1989. People who were subjected to repressions came to power. They were in prisons and fought against the regime for many years. Therefore, Poland's success is due to the fact that it was precisely such heroes who knew how much a pound is dashing, who suffered for their principles and beliefs and were elected to power. I am sure that the same will happen in Belarus.
— A conference organized by the Office of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya Office ended in Vilnius. What can you say about the results of this event?
— It is very important to understand the reasons for holding this conference at that time and the conclusions of the conference. The Belarusians are already quite disappointed with the activities of the structures that are called the Tikhanouskaya's Office, the so-called NAM (National Anti-Crisis Management) of Pavel Latushka and organizations that are associated with these people. Now Belarusians see everything with their own eyes. It can be seen that these are exaggerated personalities, the offices of Tikhanouskaya and Latushka, do not solve the issues of interest to the majority: change of power, the release of political prisoners, assistance to the repressed, assistance to numerous refugees and other important issues.
At the same time, a historic event took place - the Kalinouski Regiment. For the first time in many decades, a truly Belarusian military unit was created, albeit as part of the fraternal Armed Forces of Ukraine.
And this unit appeared without the help of Tsikhanouskaya, without the help of Latushka. The Kalinovsky Regiment is an initiative of Belarusian patriots, volunteers and veterans of the war in Ukraine, which began in 2014. This is a military formation, but at the same time, a new Belarusian political brand has appeared. Millions of Belarusians today pin their hopes for the liberation of the country on the Kalinouski Regiment, because the regiment clearly outlined its goals: to help Ukraine defeat the Russian aggressors and liberate Belarus from the Lukashenka regime.
Therefore, in my opinion, the main goal of the conference in Vilnius is to save failed pseudo-leaders by switching attention.
For some reason, the Kalinouski Regiment became a huge problem both for the Belarusian authorities and at the same time for the Office of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. So we see that recently a number of pseudo-independent media began a vile information campaign against the regiment.
Yes, we can say that everyone has some weaknesses. Indeed, the regiment appeared in the most difficult conditions, but at least appeared. There are several hundred people today, they are fighting for the freedom of both Ukraine and Belarus with arms. This really scared these plebes, these offices. It was necessary for them to urgently create a new "straw unit".
After all, not only millions of Belarusians paid their attention to the regiment, but also international players noticed it, including diplomats, military, analysts, and businessmen of the diaspora.
Earlier, we have repeatedly seen the creation of various “straw structures” to neutralize the labour movement, so that there would be no strikes in Belarus, so that no assistance was provided to the repressed, so that there would be no help for refugees, in order to suppress undesirable media.
Today, there is an attempt to destroy the Kalinouski Regiment, or to take it under full control. Belarusian heroes can hardly be blamed. Our guys are just doing their job, they are studying military affairs and really fighting for Ukrainian and our freedom while some are involved in "chair distribution" in Vilnius. There were no representatives of the Kalinouski Regiment at the Vilnius event despite the media lies.
— What is your assessment of the personnel of the so-called transitional government?
— I can't call named players new ones. They have been cooperating with both the Vilnius office and the NAM for a long time. I have had communication with all of them more or less. I will repeat.
Pavel Latushka is an experienced lackey of the Lukashenka regime, who had been grovelling before the dictator for 25 years. He worked as Lukashenka's ambassador to various countries of the world, and when he was the Press Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he told the West about "Lukashenka's achievements in protecting human rights", he said that "there are no political prisoners in Belarus", that "Lukashenka is the guarantor of independence and stability in the region”… And when Latushka served as Minister of Culture, he became famous for his “blacklist” of Belarusian musicians, artists, and other cultural professionals. In 2020, this character began to call himself the leader of the Belarusian opposition without any shame. He created the NAM organization, simulating rough activity. However, it collapsed. In the beginning, there were dozens of people, if not hundreds, who believed Latushka, but then this organization simply disappeared.
Kovaleuski has long been a kind of dark horse among Belarusian emigrants. This former Lukashenka official did not particularly distinguish himself in anything good.
Mr Azarau is generally an original personality, such an “experienced Gestapo agent”. For a long time, he had been working tirelessly for the GUBOPiK, the most disgusting and tough power body of Lukashenka's fascist regime. There are people who even accuse him of torture when he fought against various informal youth movements on duty.
He also became famous for writing a 2020 theoretical paper, where he said that the most serious threat to the Belarusian regime was posed by Belarusian volunteers who were fighting on the side of Ukraine. Azarau has also been cooperating with the Office of Tikhanouskaya for a long time. He is responsible for the failure of the 2021 Hot Spring and later headed the Situational Analysis Center. One of the main tasks of the centre was to collect information about protests and protesters. The tasks were official.
Azarau also distinguished himself with the fact that he and his henchmen from the ByPol threatened the head of the Belarusian Workers’ Union, Siarhei Dyleuskі, while an attempt to organize a strike at the end of 2021. Former GUBOPiK agent Azarau threatened Siarhei with all sorts of punishments to stop the strike.
I have a different attitude towards Valery Sakhashchyk. It is hard to say how he got into this group. This is a talented and charismatic person, the former commander of the 38th Brigade. I can say that, in my opinion, Valery Stiapanavich is an excellent Soviet officer. Will he be able to become a truly Belarusian military-political strategist? We'll see. I know that he criticizes the Kalinouski Regiment quite strongly. I hope that Lieutenant Colonel Sakhashchyk understands that the Belarusians want the fastest liberation of the country from the Lukashenka regime and the Russian occupiers, and he always has the opportunity to address the Belarusians directly and on his own.
In general, for those people who are in prison today or who have been in the Belarusian Resistance for a long time (as for me, for example, I had eight administrative arrests in Belarus, a criminal sentence of almost a year and a half), these members of the “transitional government” are not an authority at all.
I believe that one of the goals of this group is to suppress the Kalinouski Regiment and weaken the Belarusian national liberation movement in the most serious way.
— What should Belarusians, who want to liberate their country from dictatorship, prepare for today?
— Belarusians are a little late. Unfortunately, the masses of the people joined the struggle for a better life only in 2020. There was no understanding, no experience of how to act, especially when many Belarusian leaders were detained and imprisoned. The situation has changed with the new bloody phase of the Russian aggression against Ukraine. I have advocated non-violent resistance for many years, however, today I say that the change of power in Belarus can only happen by force and as a result of the joint actions of Belarusians and our allies in Ukraine and the NATO countries.
We had the possibility of a non-violent change of power for many years. As, for example, the democrats did in Slovakia, Serbia, Ukraine during the Orange Revolution, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and other countries such as Moldova. Belarusians missed this moment. Today we are a part of global and regional processes. Putin and Lukashenka have already been involved too much. Now the change of power can take place only by military-political means. I understand that it's hard to even think about it.
But on the other hand, I know from conversations with representatives of the Kalinouski Regiment that thousands of Belarusians wanted to join their fight in Ukraine anyhow. They are waiting for the beginning of the liberation of our country. Belarusian men will support this liberation campaign from the inside of the country. The more active part of them, we know, is already engaged in partisan actions, which are very similar to what is happening in Crimea, in the occupied Kherson, Kharkiv, and Zaporizhzhia regions, where people are not only conducting information work against the occupiers but are also taking more active actions.
We are not alone, we are part of the golden billion of the civilized world, we also want to live in a modern way, we want to live like human beings, in accordance with the principles of humanism, to put it pathetically. We are standing with countries that are fighting against dictatorial, fascist regimes such as the regimes of Lukashenka and Putin. For now, if we are part of a global democratic coalition, our victory is inevitable.