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The Diplomat Who Confronted The Regime: Movie About Andrei Sannikov Premiered In Warsaw

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The Diplomat Who Confronted The Regime: Movie About Andrei Sannikov Premiered In Warsaw
Photo: Charter97.org

The European Belarus leader is firmly confident in the victory of the Belarusian people.

On November 25, the Polish premiere of the documentary film about Belarus “This Kind of Hope” took place in Warsaw. Its main character is the former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, ex-presidential candidate, leader of the European Belarus civil campaign Andrei Sannikov.

The screening took place as part of the Belarusian film festival Bulbamovie at the Iluzjon cinema in Warsaw.

Polish-Swiss director Paweł Siczek has been documenting the life of Andrei Sannikov for almost ten years, creating a portrait film about one of the leaders of the Belarusian opposition.

The film began with the phrase: “Very few diplomats dare to confront the ruling regime.” Indeed, it is difficult to find examples in modern history of diplomats of this rank challenging the system.

Through the life of Andrei Sannikov, the film showed the main moments in the history of independent Belarus — the collapse of the USSR, the first independent steps of the young state, the process of nuclear disarmament, which he led, Lukashenka’s rise to power, the establishment of dictatorship, resistance, Square 2010 and the revolution in 2020.

After the screening of the film, a discussion took place, in which Andrei Sannikov and the film’s cameraman Ireneusz Prokopiuk took part. The director of the film, Paweł Siczek, could not come to the premiere — his father died on the eve of the screening.

Andrei Sannikov expressed condolences to the film’s director and said that he personally knew Pawel’s father.

In archival footage shown in the film, the European Belarus leader repeated several times that if the West did not take decisive measures against the dictatorships of Lukashenka and Putin, Europe would face a big war.

Andrei Sannikov believes that Belarus is an example of how the mistakes of the world community lead to even greater disasters:

— We have always said that the threat of the Lukashenka regime is not only a threat to human rights and democracy, but a threat to international security. And so it happened. If we had been decisively supported during our revolution in 2020, if sanctions had been immediately introduced (despite the fact that there were no calls for them at that time), we would have gotten rid of this regime. There would be no war in Ukraine.

Belarusians, according to the opposition leader, are ready for change:

— The regime has no base, there is only violence, there is only repression. We demanded changes not only in 2020, but also in 2001, 2006, and 2010 there was a real uprising against this regime.

I don’t know any examples of the fight against the regime like the one that is going on in Belarusian prisons today. Palina Sharenda-Panasyuk is a real heroine, Mikalai Statkevich, Yauhen Afnahel, Maksim Viniarski are people who fight in prison.

And what, we, the international community, do not have any opportunities to free these people? I believe that if we really wanted to get rid of this tumor, we would find opportunities, they exist. But, unfortunately, the West has much more of them, this is obvious. We have used and are using our potential, but we do not have the means that, unfortunately, the regime has.

Cameraman Ireneusz Prokopiuk explained how the idea for the film was born:

— It was a long process, lasting almost ten years. I was a journalist for many years, in 2006 I was a correspondent in Minsk and told Pawel Siczek these stories. It was I who gave Pawel the idea of Belarus; we had a similar vision of the world.

In the beginning we didn't know how everything should be, who should be the main character. We had a completely different vision of Belarus. Having delved deeper into the topic, we came up with the idea of making a film about Andrei Sannikov. There were many moments during the filming that left a lump in my throat.

Then came questions from the audience. Andrei Sannikov was asked how he sees the release of political prisoners in Belarus:

— There is only one mechanism — pressure on the regime. Thanks to this pressure, I was released in 2012. There are various considerations that maybe “hard sanctions are not needed,” but there are no other tools. This is why they released me — because for the first time they began to impose economic sanctions against the regime. Before this, the sanctions were more like tourist restrictions. As soon as economic sanctions were introduced against Lukashenka’s “wallets,” political prisoners were immediately released.

A very large group of people, about whom I have already spoken, are fighting this regime in prisons, they are calling not to weaken the sanctions. We all know that when Mikalai Statkevich was arrested in 2010, he said: “Don’t trade us, demand a waiver of loans from the International Monetary Fund, demand sanctions, don’t allow the regime to trade people, we will survive.” In order to release political prisoners, pressure is necessary.

Answering a question about the “division of the Belarusian opposition,” Sannikov noted that in difficult times this is a natural situation not only for Belarusian emigration:

— People have different views, but we have a common cause, so one way or another we are fighting for Belarus, for its independence, so that Belarus is free and ensures international security, including for Poland.

I would like to note that there is a person in the audience whom I met in the early 90s, this is Mr. Minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz. We met when I accompanied the first Minister of Defense of Belarus Pavel Kazlouski. The Minister of Defense of Poland at that time was Janusz Onyszkiewicz.

JANUSZ ONYSZKIEWICZ (ON THE RIGHT)

It was such a very exciting period in history when we thought that everything ahead would only develop in a positive direction. We also talked about military affairs, although, frankly speaking, with distrust.

I believe that one of our best friends in Poland is Mr. Minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz, because he monitors the situation in Belarus. When he came on an OSCE visit, I told him that we were currently having a protest demonstration, could he come out to the people and greet them. And Mr. Minister went, despite the fact that there were people who tried to dissuade him from this.

Mr. Onyszkiewicz then went to the Kastrychnitskaya Square and greeted the protesters, it was very inspiring. And it’s very good that when we are looking for hope, for someone who will support us, we find such friends.

And this is how the leader of the European Belarus answered the question about the faith in the victory of the Belarusian people:

— No one has yet defeated the Belarusian people for us to wonder whether to believe or not to believe in victory. The Belarusian people exist, Belarus exists, we are fighting and will fight for independence. The Belarusian people are invincible, this was shown by all these bright events that took place both in Belarus and beyond its borders.

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