The change of power in Belarus is inevitable.
Coordinator of the European Belarus civil campaign Zmitser Bandarenka said this in an interview with Charter97.org commenting on the recent developments.
- The West has been pressing on Lukashenka's regime for more than a year. Does this mean that the U.S. and EU have finally got rid of their illusions about the Belarusian regime?
- The West has never had any illusions concerning Lukashenka's regime. It is just that both the European Union and the USA understood that they cannot change the power in the country for the Belarusian people. In 2020, it became clear to the whole world that Lukashenka lost the election and that people want democratic changes and are ready to fight for it. In this respect, the West supports the Belarusians' desire for freedom.
The struggle is still going on today. The preparation for a general strike in Belarus is a campaign that can be seen all over the world. It has an impact on the policy of democratic countries, as well as on the policy of Russia regarding the Belarusian authorities.
- It is probably worth noting that Lukashenka himself is looking for a conflict with Brussels. The number of migrants storming the border is breaking the record. There are reports about shooting at the border, provocations. What is the regime seeking and what can such shortsighted steps lead to?
- The regime would like to be reckoned with, to become a party to negotiations with the European Union and NATO, but, in fact, these efforts have only led to more sanctions.
The landing of the Ryanair plane, considered an act of terrorism, and the hybrid war against neighboring countries have naturally provoked a defensive reaction of the democratic unions (both political and military), and Lukashenka got a serious response and coordinated actions against his regime at all levels.
- I would like to touch on another high-profile topic: the fire-fight between Minsk IT guy Andrei Zeltser and the KGB officers who broke into his house. How do you assess this event and the deed of the Minsk resident?
- How is it possible to break into the apartments of common citizens without wearing a uniform or presenting documents? Belarusians will defend themselves.
Let us take an example from the Belarusian history, when the police units, which supported the occupants during World War II, were used against the majority of the Belarusian population. And what was the fate of the policemen in the end? A lot of them were prosecuted, and the moral condemnation of these people and their families lasted for decades. Every village knew that "the policemen lived there," "these are the relatives of the policemen."
Maybe, the security officers should wonder why Lukashenka wants their lives and the lives of their families to be the same for decades.
I would like to say that in 2020 and 2021, a great many police officers ended up in hospitals because they were injured during their police operations, thousands of army, Interior Ministry and other security forces officers quit their jobs, and hundreds left the country. We know such associations as BYPOL, as well as many other security officers who have left the country because they had the conscience, the brains, and they understand that it is necessary to put an end to Lukashenka's regime, and return to work in the new country to reform the law enforcement system on a democratic basis.
What idiots they must be to set up their families at a whim of the illegitimate ruler! Their family members, their wives and children live under constant stress, people spit in their backs, keep away from them, nobody wants to talk to their children in school or university.
If they want to be a kind of "race of lords," they will get the same kick as the policemen after World War II. But the Belarusian power structures still have an opportunity to gain not only the right to forgiveness, but also the respect of the Belarusians. It is only necessary to side with the people.
- We cannot avoid the topic of COVID-19 in Belarus. The situation is extremely serious. The regime has completely failed the vaccination of the population and experts say that things will get much worse by winter. How can Belarusians protect themselves and their loved ones today?
- It is necessary to follow the example of other countries of the world at community level and take measures to protect your relatives. First of all, it is vaccination, even with the medications that are available. It is necessary to demand from the authorities the opportunity to be vaccinated with internationally recognized vaccines, because the IMF has allocated almost a billion dollars to Lukashenka for this purpose. Belarusians have the right to use internationally recognized vaccines free of charge.
Quarantine is absolutely essential, it is necessary to stay at home, it is necessary not to send the children to schools, universities and kindergartens during the period of strengthening of the epidemic. We can already see that tens of thousands of people have died because of the authorities, and now there is a fourth wave, which is the most dangerous, the most severe since the beginning of the pandemic.
Such a method of self-defense as a strike is appropriate like never before. I think it will be announced in the very near future, and Belarusians should prepare to stay home with the whole family: to buy food, necessary medicines, candles and flashlights, because everything can happen.
Experience shows that the strict quarantine in European countries radically changes the morbidity rate within a month. Susceptibility to infection and mortality rates decrease several-fold.
Belarusians must protect their life, because it is given only once. Now we can see that the virus has mutated and there is a danger not only for the older generation: young people and children are being infected. So there is a particular danger for those who have not been vaccinated, but even those who have been vaccinated should prepare to stay home for at least one month, combining quarantine and the general strike.
- Recently there have appeared several investigations about the situation at Belarusian enterprises. As it turned out, deplorable work results are not an obstacle for corruption and luxurious life of the managers. What do you think, will the Belarusian workers react to such facts?
- The rot starts from the top; Lukashenka's boorish attitude (including that to the directorate of leading enterprises) causes a copycat effect. The heads of state-owned enterprises behave a la Lukashenka, in the same boorish style. With the help of various methods of pressure: the contract system, the threat of layoffs, direct acts, suppression involving the security forces, the directors of enterprises have been feeling as if they are boyars, and their attitude to the people has always been boorish.
Yes, there haven't been strikes in the country for 25 years and the over-fed bosses got pretty brazen, but last year showed that things can change very quickly. Besides cyber partisans collect and publish information about those top managers who, obviously, deceive not only the workers but also Lukashenka, and the ministers as well. For example, the flagrant case of non-existent branches of the Minsk Tractor Plant.
Thanks to the existence of Telegram-channels (which cannot be suppressed), the workers get and digest information about what is really happening at their enterprises.
The directors should ask themselves: maybe they should take the side of the people, maybe they should repent, maybe they should quit their jobs, and maybe they should support the workers who are ready to take part in the strike.
- Do Belarusians have a window of opportunity for change in the country in the near future?
- One can say that Lukashenka's regime is an old Soviet tractor that is stuck in a swamp. The changes in Belarus have even become overripe. We realize that there is an objective need for radical changes for the sake of the existence of the Belarusian statehood and the nation.
We need a revolution in the economy, a technological revolution, a political revolution, a social revolution, even an aesthetic revolution. After all, we see that the world is developing very quickly, the technology is changing, as well as advanced political and social forms are closely related to the technical and technological revolutions in the world. Changes in Belarus are inevitable. And it is up to us to decide whether they will happen in a month or two, or in several years.
Belarus, which is only 94th in the world in terms of population and is geographically situated in Europe, cannot have such an archaic and miserable regime. There are objective reasons for this change, but there is also a subjective factor: the presence of strong, intelligent leaders who are willing to take risks and ready to lead the revolution. We know that today there is a large number of true leaders in the Belarusian jails, the people who have risked themselves and who started the Belarusian revolution. We know the names of these people very well.
Yes, we understand that there is repression amidst the agony of the regime. However, this is why there is a proposal to hold a new type of strike. This is a certain know-how of the Belarusians, which could be in demand worldwide. The strike not in the workplace, but the "Stay at Home" strike is the safest way for people in today's situation.
We've said before that people have a right to protect their lives, so they can stay home amid the coronavirus epidemic. Organized refusal of people to go to work will force the authorities to negotiate with the democratic forces, with the labor leaders, to make changes in the country through new free elections.
- You brought up the topic of leaders. One of the most prominent figures today is Siarhei Dyleuski. In your opinion, does he have enough credibility among the people and a range of qualities that could help him become a leader?
- Earlier I was criticized for saying that revolt and revolution in Belarus were inevitable. I also said that new leaders would appear in the country. The revolution did take place, and we saw a huge number of bright and strong people at the head of the protests.
In my youth, it was fashionable to say "the time has chosen us"; now Belarus chooses new leaders. Siarhei Dyleuski, who, it would seem, due to his biography is not quite ready to become a national leader, nevertheless, has actually become such a person.
We know about the role played in Poland by the Solidarity leader, electrician Lech Walesa. He became the leader of changes in the whole region, and subsequently in the whole world. After all, Poland was the driving force and totalitarianism in Eastern Europe and the whole world collapsed, in part thanks to electrician Walesa.
Today we are witnessing global processes: dictatorships in Cuba and Venezuela are falling, Nicaragua is close to changes, we see people's aspiration for freedom in Arab countries, we see changes in the post-Soviet space.
Dyleuski is already a leader in Belarus. I trust this man. I know him personally and have been watching him for a long time. He has a talent to unite very different people. We can see that new bloggers, former officials, political scientists, workers of various enterprises, street activists and various centers of the Belarusian diaspora have joined the preparation for the strike. And this is the merit of Dyleuski, he took the burden of leadership, and our task is to help him in this.
I know that such politicians as Statkevich, Afnahel, Babaryka, Tsikhanouski, Seviarynets and many others who are imprisoned support the idea of the strike and the initiative of the Belarusian Association of Workers.
Today we need to act as one fist in order to get our friends released. The form of the strike that has been chosen means the utmost concern about the people in order to minimize the risks.
On the other hand, we must realize that the revolution requires brave, free and willing people to act together.