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‘Lukashenka Will First Freak Out, Then Make Concessions’

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‘Lukashenka  Will First Freak Out, Then Make Concessions’

Poland has a strong tool to put pressure on the dictator.

Polish President Andrzej Duda, who is on a visit to China, warned Xi Jinping about the possible closure of the border with Belarus.

How likely is it that Warsaw will actually take this step? The website Charter97.org spoke with political scientist Dzmitry Balkunets about this:

“If Poland wants to demonstrate its strong political will, achieve a resolution of the migration crisis and the release of political prisoners, then this is the only opportunity today to force Lukashenka to make concessions. I think it would be a fairly tough initiative that would achieve success. These themes were heard in Beijing at a meeting with the leader of China; the head of the Polish Foreign Ministry, Radosław Sikorski, spoke about closing the border. This shows the seriousness of intentions on Poland's part.

Only, in my opinion, we are still talking about cargo, and not about passenger transportation, because the citizens of Belarus and Poland have nothing to do with it. In these migration issues, it is necessary to very strictly separate the population of Belarus and Poland from the actions carried out by the Lukashenka regime.

Lukashenka can only be punished by closing the border for the goods that he and Putin transport to Europe. Of course, in this situation, Chinese transit is also at risk, so Lukashenka is a threat to the safe export and import of Chinese goods to the European Union, including for Polish manufacturers.

This is a very timely initiative that can achieve results. I would like to emphasize that it is important here that the Polish side not only touches on one point, which concerns the migration war unleashed by Lukashenka and Putin on the borders of the European Union; the issue of political prisoners is also important here. I have no doubt that if this is pushed to the end, then within a short time Lukashenka will release all political prisoners without any conditions; he has no other options.

Yesterday there was a meeting between Lavrov and Aleynik, and the rather nervous reaction of both foreign ministers was visible. Today Lavrov is already sitting on the sofa with Aleynik and listening to some statements from Lukashenka. I think that the topic of the border will also be discussed, that China will not just leave it like that and will transmit its questions to Moscow and Minsk through diplomatic channels.

It is difficult to ignore the requests that come from politicians, famous scientists, and Nobel laureates from all over the world. And it is important that this position is still reflected and voiced by officials.

— How much can China influence the Lukashenka regime in this matter?

— If we look at the official trade that exists between China and Belarus, compare it with how, for example, China trades with Poland, then it is obvious that the difference there is huge. The trade turnover between China and Belarus is about 7 billion US dollars a year, and between Poland and China — about 50 billion, the gap is gigantic. It is obvious that for China Poland is a higher priority country in terms of economics than Belarus.

Considering the transit potential of Belarus, China is, of course, interested in ensuring that the goods they send by rail to Europe pass through unhindered. Therefore, all obstacles that may arise on their way must somehow be stopped.

It is obvious that China in this regard can become a “fellow traveler” in resolving these two conceptual issues that are on the agenda today. This is both the issue of the migration crisis and the issue of political prisoners, they must be considered together, they cannot be separated. I am absolutely convinced that this topic will be discussed.

I would like to add that since the beginning of January, about 10 actions have been held in Warsaw. One of them was held near the Chinese embassy by a group of Belarusian citizens, who, among other things, handed over a petition to the Chinese leadership with a notification that an action was planned to block the border. Another action took place just two weeks ago near the presidential palace in Warsaw, and this action was witnessed by the Chinese ambassador, who then came to meet President Duda. It is unknown whether it was accidental or not, but such a story happened.

— You have already touched upon the topic of Lavrov and Aleynik’s nervous reaction to statements from Poland. How will Lukashenka act if Warsaw really blocks the border? How will the situation develop?

— At first he will be hysterical, there will be his traditional screams, if we are talking specifically about blocking cargo routes. Currently there is one border crossing that allows trucks with goods to pass through, as well as three or four border crossings that allow goods to pass by rail. If they are stopped, Lukashenka will first freak out and then be forced to make concessions.

This story will be especially painful for the railways, because it can also paralyze passenger transportation within the country. The railway is a very complex mechanism, everything is scheduled there minute by minute for weeks in advance,movement of all trains. Any restrictions lead to collapse on the railway.

This measure can really force Aliaksandr Lukashenka to release political prisoners. How he will do it is his problem. He can grant them amnesty, he can simply let them go without any reason, and so on. I believe that this is indeed a very powerful tool that can achieve results.

Lukashenka is aware that such actions are being planned, and, it seems to me, the issues raised today by the Polish side were presented in an agreed and verified format. If Lukashenka wanted to hear a certain position, then he has already heard it. On Sunday, the Telegram channel maintained by his press service actually issued an answer that was primarily focused on Poland. They expressed the idea that “Belarus is a peaceful country, open to equal dialogue, not posing a threat and openly communicating its position to other countries.” It was written: “Whoever wants to hear will hear.”

I believe that Lukashenka learned from the media, and perhaps the information was transmitted through other channels, about the seriousness of the intentions of the Polish side to close the border. If Aleynik yesterday announced his readiness for dialogue, then, in my opinion, the dialogue position has already been clearly defined and includes two main points: the first is the end of the migration crisis provoked by Lukashenka and Putin at the border, the second is the release of political prisoners in Belarus. It seems to me that Aleynik should take these two points into account, and if the Belarusian side fulfills them, then there will be no need for Poland to close the border. This can be seen as the start of a dialogue.

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