This will force the regime to at least release all political prisoners.
Belarusian political scientist Dzmitry Balkunets wrote in his Telegram channel that a collective ultimatum from the EU and the US would force Lukashenka to at least release all political prisoners.
Charter97.org spoke with the expert about what this ultimatum is, and how it will hit the regime.
— I am talking about the blocking of railway points on the border of the EU and Belarus. The only convenient way to deliver goods from China to Europe is through Belarus. The other runs through Turkey, but it is difficult in terms of logistics.
The railway line through Belarus was launched in 2014 and at the beginning there were 40,000 containers. In 2021, 550,000 containers have already been shipped. These are full-fledged containers that are placed on platforms. For China, this is an extremely important path.
16,000 freight trains from China to Europe are planned for 2023. That is, every half an hour a freight train passes only through Belarus. These are only Chinese, but there are also Russian and Kazakh trains that travel to the EU with cargo.
It is also important to understand that the Belarusian authorities have begun to use some empty trains that travel further from Europe to deliver goods to China.
If Lukashenka receives a collective ultimatum from European countries and does not fulfill the only condition that can be set, and this is the release of all, I emphasize, all political prisoners-hostages without exception, then the border should be blocked.
— How will the closure of railway points affect the regime?
— This will lead to the fact that traffic will be paralyzed at least along this railway. One such train is at least 50-60 wagons, 700 meters in length. A large blockage is formed. As a result, logistics along the entire Silk Road from China to Europe will be paralyzed.
It is not even the Chinese facts that are important here, but the fact that Lukashenka will lose money. We are talking about huge financial losses. He won't go for it, in my opinion. It is important to understand that these are large-scale sanctions against Lukashenka, and Europe will not lose much at the same time.
Europe will survive without Belarusian transit. Another question is whether Lukashenka will be able to last for some time without this transit. For him, this is money, smuggling, the opportunity to sell Belarusian products, and so on. I am talking about hundreds of millions of dollars that pass through Belarus every day.
I believe that European countries should prioritize the question of what is more important for them — the cash they receive or the resolution of the humanitarian crisis that has developed in Belarus in connection with political prisoners.
I think that representatives of the Belarusian democratic forces, journalists, bloggers and so on should raise this issue at various European platforms. Belarusian diasporas from different countries too. After all, this is a unique tool that can force Lukashenka to release political hostages.
There are two more positive stories in this picture. In February, 222 political prisoners in Nicaragua were released. They were successfully evacuated by plane to the USA. Iran recently granted amnesty to 22,000 political prisoners.
— What does it say?
— It becomes too expensive for dictators to keep political prisoners and the pressure exerted by the international community is extremely important.
I think that the EU countries together or separately could contribute to the resolution of the crisis in Belarus. This is in the interests of the European Union as well. Unfortunately, today there is not enough political will in Western countries to do this.
I am absolutely convinced that Lukashenka has no other choice. Last Friday, on March 10, he spoke to the “government”. He then accused Poland and America of “putting pressure to close the way”. Obviously, this topic worries him. I am convinced that this is better than any other sanctions that have been applied before.
In such a situation, Europe must make a moral choice for itself.
— Will Beijing and the Kremlin put pressure on Lukashenka if the railway points are closed?
— Yes, but Lukashenka himself will calculate how much money he will lose. After all, almost all exports of Belarus to China will stop. In theory, he can store containers on the territory of Belarus, but he will not be able to do this for a long time. There is a product, there are supply chains, routes, and so on. All these costs will be passed on to Lukashenka, who allowed this kind of catastrophe. It seems to me that it is in his personal interests to release all political prisoners.
I assume that the Belarusian authorities will try to deceive Europe. Repeatedly before, they tried to chat them up with some kind of pseudo-negotiations. As it was in 2021, when famous characters talked about mystical “negotiations” and it all ended in nothing.
You can speak with Lukashenka only in the language that he understands. This is the language of an ultimatum. Lukashenka does not know what the language of diplomacy is. He accepts only the language of the ultimatum, and Europe should only speak to him this way.
I will also add that a letter signed by Valer Tsapkala was sent to all European leaders. A separate letter was sent to the Chinese Ambassador to Belarus, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of China. They contain information about the situation that is developing at the border due to Lukashenka's fault, and a request to help resolve the conflict.
I would like to emphasize one more important thing. The proposal for an ultimatum concerns only freight transport by rail. It does not apply to passenger traffic.
I repeat, stopping freight traffic can really hit the regime and achieve the release of all political prisoners without exception within a short time.