The announcement of the pre-strike state in Belarus has disrupted the signing of the integration action plans.
Why has Lukashenka become toxic for China and Russia? How are sanctions affecting the Belarusian regime? How can Siarhei Dyleuski's shoe size influence the situation in the country? Why the strike is a real and winning scenario? Charter97.org has discussed all this with the coordinator of the European Belarus civil campaign, Zmitser Bandarenka.
- Lately, the dynamics of events in Belarus has accelerated significantly. The Belarusian state banks have had their accounts in Europe closed; the tobacco giant of British-American Tobacco stops cooperating with Hrodna Nioman. Such news appears literally every day. Is it a strong blow to the regime?
- We can say that the coordinated actions of democratic forces in Belarus, as well as the position of civilized countries, have brought such a result. The sanctions against the Belarusian regime are now the strongest, one might say, the most real, since the existence of the Belarusian dictatorship. No doubt, there is a huge work of the Belarusian diasporas in different countries, as well as representatives of the headquarters of Tsikhanouskaya, Andrei Sannikov and the People's Anti-Crisis Management. Our joint efforts have yielded such a result.
Obviously, Lukashenka's vicious and aggressive actions against both Belarusian citizens and citizens of other countries (in particular, the grounding of the Ryanair plane), unleashing a hybrid war against neighboring countries, all these have not gone unnoticed.
I think the sanctions are already inflicting tremendous damage on the Lukashenka economy and they will intensify.
- Russia and China, on which Lukashenka was hoping so much, are also in no hurry to help with money. Why?
- China is a huge country, the second largest in the world. It has interests everywhere: in Africa, Latin America, and Europe. Beijing is interested today in the transit opportunities of one country or another. Belarus is a small country in terms of economic weight and population, but we have the most favorable geographical position for transit: both from east to west and from north to south.
In the famous plans for a new "Great Silk Road," the key road is supposed to pass through Beijing, Moscow, Minsk, Berlin, and Paris. Here, of course, Lukashenka's actions, which caused the introduction of a partial state of emergency in neighboring EU countries, can in no way please China, because they directly damage Beijing's interests.
The hybrid war with Lithuania and Latvia also strikes a blow to transit, because China delivers the lion's share of its cargoes to various European countries precisely by sea. A huge number of Chinese containers are unloaded in the ports of the Baltic countries for further transport to Ukraine, the Russian Federation and other European countries. This is where the second blow is made to Chinese interests.
China is very large, of course, but they like to count money, the party checks everything, and there are specific people behind each direction. These people, of course, are sending signals to Beijing that Lukashenka has created problems for China's trade interests.
And, naturally, no one wants to fall under the U.S. sanctions, because there is a threat of secondary sanctions. In addition, it is unclear how the Lukashenka regime will pay, because the accounts of leading Belarusian banks have been blocked in Europe.
Russia's position is different. It also does not want to fall under sanctions because of the crazy "lame duck", but is trying, of course, to use the moment and catch fish in troubled waters. Perhaps, there will be a chance to get something out of Belarus, when Lukashenka is not recognized in the West, hated by his own people, and has become a complete outcast both at home and abroad.
- Last week, Lukashenka and Putin announced that they had agreed on all 28 action plans for the so-called integration. There are very many interpretations of this event: from "the anschluss of Belarus has happened," to "nothing has changed, all the documents are just a formality." How do you see these events? What could really be said to Lukashenka in the Kremlin?
- On the one hand, I agree with those political analysts (in particular, Andrei Suzdaltsev) who say that nothing significant has happened and that Russia is just holding parliamentary, albeit formal, elections, but they need some accompanying PR-actions so that the Kremlin authorities could demonstrate at least some success. We are well aware that Russia has rather big problems because of the sanctions and the fact that Putin has turned from a partner of the West (a strategic partner for many countries) into a problem of international politics. I note that earlier we were talking about the 31st action plan, now we are told about 28.
However, I would still not underestimate the threat of this signing. After all, if Lukashenka agrees to such a step, it means that he can sell anything to hold on to power for a month or two. Especially since his mental state is completely inadequate, and Putin, as a good recruiter, can feel Lukashenka's state and his position.
It is clear that if such a signing takes place, it will not strengthen the security and independence of our country.
I can assume that the signing was prepared for the beginning of the parliamentary elections in Russia, but the declaration of a pre-strike state in Belarus has stopped Moscow, because it turns out that all Lukashenka's claims that he controls the situation in the country are complete lies.
There are some sober-minded advisers to Vladimir Putin, who say that Lukashenka may lose power as a result of the strike and the popular uprising in the near future. What will Putin look like then?
- You've already touched on the subject of the pre-strike situation. A couple of days ago, even our athletes supported the strike. You can see that the discussion is going on not only among the workers, but also among representatives of other spheres of Belarusian society. How do you assess the chances of the workers' protest?
- I've been in the Belarusian resistance for many years, and I have always believed that there were moments when we could win, but there has never been such an electoral advantage over Lukashenka. Moreover, the electoral defeat of the regime has been recorded both at home and abroad. This is the most important thing.
I believe that now the strike can not only throw off the dictatorship, but change the situation in Belarus once and for all. The sanctions are working. The absolute majority of Belarusians are against Lukashenka; the whole world does not recognize him as a legitimate ruler. Therefore, the strike will be not just a straw, but a real mechanical hammer that will break the backbone of the dictatorship.
I like it that we finally have a strong labor leader. He lacks experience, obviously, but he is willing to talk to all kinds of structures and bring people together. This is Siarhei Dyleuski.
I also like it that our hero has the 49th shoe size. Dyleuski, a worker of the tractor plant, can give a good kick in the ass the Belarusian usurper and make him move in the right direction.
- One of the workers' demands is to negotiate with the Belarusian authorities. Are you in favor of such a round table?
- The model of the "round table" for everyone is Poland, where the authorities and the opposition once managed to agree on free elections. By the way, Lech Walesa advised Siarhei Dyleuski to demand the same "round table" for Belarus.
In fact, I'm surprised that the subject of the negotiations raised some questions. After all, the sanctions against Lukashenka's regime have been imposed with demands to release political prisoners, hold talks between the government and the opposition, as well as to hold new elections.
Recommendations and claims of the West are based on what diplomats from various centers of the Belarusian democratic forces have proposed. People from Tsikhanouskaya's team spoke about negotiations; the People's Anti-Crisis Management spoke about negotiations; European Belarus and our leader Andrei Sannikov have always spoken about negotiations. Belarusian workers are now insisting on the same thing.
We are not the first ones who are in such a situation. There have been civil wars in many countries, and they did not always end with the victory of one of the parties. People used to sit down and negotiate, negotiating a non-zero option.
Let's take the case of the "round table", if the Belarusian power structures and officials at least read historical books, they would know that there have been no losers after the "round table" in Poland. The other side - the security officials and former communists - they remained in the political and economic life of the new Poland. A lot of them became co-owners of banks and enterprises. The post-communists returned to power as a political force eight years after the Solidarity leaders' government. And yet the Poles have carried out effective reforms. The country has become a member of the EU and NATO. Poland has already received and continues to receive hundreds of billions of euros from Brussels to develop its economy and improve the lives of its citizens. So, yes, I am in favor of negotiations.
Naturally, if someone from the security services is not too smart and decided to stay with Lukashenka to the end, then it is their own problem, they are leaving themselves and their families high and dry for years to come. After all, the negotiations can discuss amnesty for the security forces and officials, but they must first help to solve the problem with Lukashenka. The negotiations must be all about a change of power, a transitional period, and new elections at all levels, in which all political forces of the country will participate.
- Another event that overlaps with the pre-strike situation in Belarus is the new wave of coronavirus, which even the authorities have acknowledged. How does this affect the situation?
- Today it turns out that the strike becomes a way to preserve the Belarusian independence. I think that many people will join the strike for this very reason, because the Russians are not supposed to sign any important agreements with the person who has completely discredited himself and does not represent the Belarusian people.
At the same time, the strike today is a way to protect ourselves from the coronavirus. The strike is something that could save thousands and thousands of lives of Belarusians. After all, civilized countries have already repeatedly used lockdowns and the more limited quarantine measures to save people.
As we can see, their economy has subsequently recovered rather quickly. Last year's economic growth in Poland was more than 10%, and in some countries, it was even greater. Quarantine measures help to save lives.
In our country, we are dealing with a madman who does not care at all about people's health and lives. That is why, Belarusian, protect yourself! Belarusian, stay at home! Thus, you will defend the independence of the country, you will bring closer the fall of the regime, you will bring closer free elections in Belarus and you will save your lives and the lives of your loved ones.
- How else can we bring closer the victory of the Belarusian people over the dictatorship?
- The imposition of sanctions by the West has shown that coordinated actions by the Belarusian democrats do have an effect and can be a strong instrument to bring changes. Right now, the most important thing is the strike. And it is what the Belarusian Association of Workers is proposing. For the workers, it is "stay home," for the businesses, it is "go on vacation".
We have already discussed what this gives and there is no other way. You don't have to go out to protest today, you have to stay home for a month. Every family can stock up on groceries. I know that there are thousands and thousands of people who are doing this.
In the fall, the Belarusians have a supply of the "dacha" crop. Our people have never relied on the authorities, but only on themselves. Now nature is favoring and there are a huge number of mushrooms in the forests, which can also help the Belarusians get through.
Nationwide preparations for the general strike is a new page in the history of Belarus. After all, there have been no strikes in our country for a long time, "the Belarusians are happy about everything". The country ranks last in Europe in terms of wages, but Belarusians do not go on strike, while the Poles, whose salaries are four or five times higher, or the Germans, whose wages are seven or ten times higher, keep going on strike, and sometimes the highly paid categories of citizens go on strike.
This is exactly what we have to be united about right now: staying home and inflicting one last serious blow on the regime's economy, making the rational people in power negotiate a way out of the crisis.
I don't see any other way right now. We need to be consistent in doing this. This is the real and victorious scenario.