In an interview with Radio Svaboda, the presidential candidate in the 2010 elections, leader of the civil campaign European Belarus, former deputy foreign minister, former political prisoner Andrei Sannikau told how to change the situation in Belarus (translation – charter97.org)
On the effectiveness of sanctions against Aliaksandr Lukashenka and his entourage
I believe that these are not sanctions yet. More than 30 thousand people in Belarus have gone through arrests, detentions, torture, and several dozen officials are banned from entering Europe. I believe that this is just a mockery of the Belarusian people, of their self-sacrifice.
It’s not even that Cyprus blocked the decision at the very beginning or that, at first, Lukashenka was not included in this list. It’s the fact that they leaked this information through the media in Brussels that he will not be on the sanctions lists. This was done on purpose. This is not the first time we have encountered this. It means: dictator, calm down, there will be no sanctions against you. And then a decision is made on sanctions without Lukashenka, and these leaks come true. At first, he wasn’t included, and then he was. What is it, victory, that he was included? It gives nothing. It is obvious that now there are no effective sanctions.
Why economic sanctions are needed
Only economic sanctions will be effective. European Belarus is constantly talking about this. These are both financial and trade sanctions. This is the disconnection of banks from the SWIFT system. You can even disconnect several banks. There are not many banks in Belarus for this to not work. Now we are talking about disconnecting Russia from SWIFT for the poisoning of Navalny, and it would be possible to connect and make a decision in relation to the Kremlin’s support for Lukashenka.
You can stop the export of oil products to Europe. There are countries that are at the forefront of this, including the United Kingdom, which was one of the largest importers of oil products from Belarus. There were sensible proposals from the presidents of Lithuania and Poland to punish Western companies cooperating with Lukashenka’s regime. This is a very good proposal because, if you look closely, either Russian businessmen directly head most of these companies or control them. If the Europeans took this decision, it would be helpful for them too.
Disagreements with Tsikhanouskaya’s team on the issue of economic sanctions
I do not see an awareness of the need for economic sanctions among people who, first of all, should be aware of this and demand it. First of all, these are Tsikhanouskaya’s entourage and Tsikhanouskaya herself. They delayed for more than three months, without demanding any sanctions, contenting themselves with discussing certain persons from Lukashenka’s entourage. Not a single goal was achieved.
If we are talking about targeted or personal sanctions, then a couple of dozen people are a mockery, and they talk about the result. If we are talking about the goal – to deprive Lukashenka of legitimacy, then it has not been achieved either. There are statements, but ambassadors are working, there are negotiations with Makei, ambassadors come to Belarus and present their credentials to Lukashenka. We demand sanctions; this is our moral right. We must get rid of this violence, save people not from arrests but from murder.
Is there coordination with Tsikhanouskaya’s team and the Coordination Council
There is no coordination. We had the experience of unsuccessful cooperation with Tsikhanouskaya. European Belarus helped a lot during the campaign; we were among the organizers of events with Tsikhanouskaya’s participation. And then, certain agreements were violated, and European Belarus moved away (from cooperation – ed.), As we realized that this team began to act with other interests and other goals. There is no cooperation now, but we support everything that can be supported from what comes from this team, and we will support everything that is aimed at our victory.
There is (in Tsikhanouskaya’s team – ed.) no activity, but some kind of activity imitation. Some structures are being created; some initiatives appear that are not being implemented. We said that we should raise the issue of sanctions from the first day. When this horror happened on August 9, everyone had to shout about sanctions.
Obviously, I am strained by the strengthening of the Russian vector (in Tsikhanouskaya’s team – ed.) and the hope for Russia. I am not against certain negotiations with the Kremlin but from our positions. Here, there are such weak signals to the Kremlin, like “have mercy on us, we are so small’ could you, maybe, help.” It will never work. This all leaves us outside of this group. But we are acting in order to support people in Belarus, support protesters, save people from captivity, from this scourge.
What can trigger the split of the elites
Anything. A definite trigger was the demonstrative murder of Raman Bandarenka. What we saw later, these leaks, should be such a trigger for people who still have something left in their heads. I believe that the most excellent trigger would be the transition of a platoon of internal troops to the side of the people so that, for example, they would go to guard the courtyards with weapons.
I consider all options as probable because this is what happened in 1991 in the USSR and other countries that became free and independent. First of all, in the Baltic countries. Now the pressure on Lukashenka’s servants will increase. First of all, they will be under pressure; someone will not stand it; someone will start to think differently. I believe that anything is possible. Real sanctions would be a huge trigger. As a result of the sanctions, there would be less money for the punishers’ salaries. I believe that Raman Bandarenka, his blessed memory, is our Palach because he deliberately walked, knowing that he could be killed. “I’m going out,” he said to all of us.
About the roots of hatred for national symbols
The roots are in Lukashenka and his regime. This is a unique dictatorial regime, which, unlike other dictatorships, is not based on nationality. Lukashenka has always denied the culture, history, and language of Belarus, always said that he was an “internationalist” and a “great friend” of Russians, Stalin, and all the scoundrels who were in power in Soviet times. He built his system, denying our nationality, and therefore people appeared who physically hate symbols and language. They even started marking people who speak Belarusian with paint. It even surpasses the yellow stars that the Nazis used to designate Jews. If we mention the books of Aitmatov, then these are the mankurts that appeared among us. They are aggressive mankurts who will always be against our identity.
About torture and prisons 10 years ago and now
I cannot calmly read about it and see it. The system has crossed all the red lines. The brutal beating of us on the square in 2010, nevertheless, intimidated people, and the tortures we went through were not visible. Now, even the demonstration of torture and murder does not frighten people. This really gives great hope and even confidence that everything will soon end with the victory of the people of Belarus. And we must clearly document all this, as there will be an international court and tribunal.
What can you tell government officials who are hesitant
The choice is very simple. If you want to be under international prosecution, stay there. If you want to live in a new, free Belarus, then leave your posts as soon as possible, no matter what. When I left in 1996, on the eve of the referendum, I had no prospects. I didn’t even agree with anyone about what I would do. I had to leave this system, which was not yet so obvious to everyone at that time, but it was obvious to me where this would all go, so I advise you to choose Belarus. Or go somewhere. Borders are more open now than before. If you like Russia – go to Russia; if you like Africa – go to Africa. But don’t help kill people in your home country.