Belarusians must get prepared for the decisive battle.
Editor-in-Chief of the website Charter97.org Natallia Radzina commented on the latest events related to the war in Ukraine on the air of Belsat, and also expressed the opinion that public unrest could be expected in Belarus and Russia soon.
QUESTION: I would like to start with the following. There is the information that the Belarusian troops are ready for full-scale participation in the war on the side of the Russian Federation. The news is not surprising, but is there anything from your point of view that can stop this scenario, prevent it from happening?
NATALLIA RADZINA: I know that the Belarusian army has no desire to fight. We are constantly receiving information that the moral and psychological mood in the army is extremely low. The Belarusian military men do not want to go to this war, they do not want to kill Ukrainian brothers, and in case they, no matter what, are forced to enter the territory of Ukraine, we know that many Belarusian servicemen will simply surrender, go over to the side of Ukraine in this war. Or there is already a threat (Belarusian officers inform the General Staff of Belarus about this) that Belarusian soldiers will simply turn their weapons against Belarusian officers.
QUESTION: Well, here is another side of this situation, we all saw the ferocious Belarusian special police simply bludgeoning people at Akrestsina street detention center, in other prisons, they seemed extremely aggressive and quite decisive.
NATALLIA RADZINA: It is necessary to separate the bandit groupings that protect Lukashenka today from the entire Belarusian army. These are completely different people, with totally different moods. As far as I know, these bandits from GUBOPiK (Chief Directorate to Combat Organized Crime and Corruption), OMON (riot police) and SOBR (Special Rapid Reaction Department) do not want to fight themselves. They are well aware that they can die there. These are cowards by essence, they can only stand against defenseless citizens of Belarus, but as soon as they face a real threat, they will immediately, excuse me, wet their pants of fear. And therefore, naturally, they are also afraid, they also do not want to be complicit in this.
I want to emphasize that all the people of Belarus today are against the war in Ukraine. This war was unleashed by the criminal, dictatorial, fascist regimes of Putin and Lukashenka. And this war will lead to their complete and final defeat and elimination. I am convinced that the regimes in both Belarus and Russia will collapse soon.
I would like to address fellow Belarusians today: we must remain calm, we must be patient. I understand that mass anti-war demonstrations are impossible in Belarus today. This is the same as if there were protests today in the occupied Crimea or in the occupied Donbas. Unfortunately, this is not possible today. The country is both under dictatorship and the Russian occupation. This must be clearly and precisely understood by everyone, including our Ukrainian brothers. But our time will come. The sanctions that are being imposed today against the Putin regime, against the Lukashenka regime, weaken the dictatorships.
QUESTION: Why do you think there is such a difference in terms of support for the war in Russia and Belarus? According to the official data, even according to some independent estimates, in Russia a significant majority supports the war in Ukraine. In Belarus, the picture is the opposite. That is, about three-quarters of our people do not support this war, while in Russia, three-quarters do. Where does this difference come from?
NATALLIA RADZINA: We have absolutely fundamentally different situations. Belarus is under Russian occupation and the absolute majority of Belarusians in 2020 showed that they are against this power. These people stayed in the country. Yes, about 200 thousand were forced to flee the country, but that hatred, that dissatisfaction with the Lukashenka regime, remains.
Naturally, our people today do not support either Lukashenka's dictatorship or the dictatorship of Putin, who today also unleashed a bloody war against a neighboring country. Therefore, the situation here is fundamentally different than in Russia. Although I would not believe Russian opinion polls today. We must understand that in dictatorships where the last independent media are being destroyed, there can be no true opinion polls. But, of course, you need to understand that a large percentage today are fooled by Russian propaganda and, unfortunately, they do not adequately assess the situation. But when thousands of coffins with their loved ones, with their sons, with their relatives start arriving to Russia, I think sobering will come.
QUESTION: Are there any opportunities for resistance and civic responsibility, and what are they? I noticed that today you published a text by Henadz Korshunau, a sociologist. He is contemplating exactly on responsibility for what is happening, that it is important to adopt a feeling of responsibility, not guilt. What can Belarusians object to?
NATALLIA RADZINA: Belarusians do not need to sprinkle ashes on their heads, Belarusians should be ashamed of being Belarusians. We fought in 2020 with this regime. We cried out to the world for help, but unfortunately we were alone. Because serious sanctions, frankly speaking, have not been introduced for a very long time. We also appealed to Ukraine for help. However, oil products trading was the most active then. And for this Ukrainian money, the criminal regime of Lukashenka was supported, which repressed, killed, and destroyed our people.
Today we are with the Ukrainians with all our hearts, souls, and all our strength. But let's look realistically at what we can do in the current situation, when we are under occupation. Of course, the diaspora has more opportunities for action. Independent media, such as Charter’97, such as Belsat, today work around the clock telling Belarusians the whole truth about what is happening in this war. Today thousands of Belarusian volunteers are going to fight in Ukraine. The queues for sending to the front in Ukraine are huge, we know that the Belarusian side has already suffered losses fighting for Ukraine. And people will go and support Ukrainians in this war.
The diaspora transfers money to help the Armed Forces of Ukraine, supports refugees who come to Poland today, and this is more than a million people who came from Ukraine.
People inside the country, what can you do? Belarusians, talk to the families of the military, convince them to do everything possible so that their relatives do not go to this war. There is a video (to be honest, I cried over it) where Ukrainian children ask Belarusian children to talk to their dads and these children, who are under bombardment today, sing a lullaby and ask: talk to your parents. Show them this video, tell them what is really happening in Ukraine, stop them so that they do not go to this fratricidal war.
If you have such an opportunity, print leaflets and distribute them in your own neighborhood, among friends. If you can, draw graffiti at night. Someone is committing so-called sabotage on the railway today, stopping trains with Russian equipment. It's more dangerous, but men can do it.
I will not advise men who served in the army what they can do today. Nevertheless, it is very important to save yourself. Because I am convinced that the events will take place in Belarus very soon. The Belarusian enterprises are already on the verge of closing, and every day we receive information that people are being fired, that wages are being delayed. There is information that two mines have already stopped at Belaruskali. That is, Lukashenka's economy is on the way to a collapse. I also believe there will be serious strikes and mass protests in the country.
QUESTION: Are there any forces in Belarus that can carry out an internal coup?
NATALLIA RADZINA: Of course, these are the Belarusians, these are the Belarusian people. This is our main force today. And, of course, there are leaders among them, many of them are now in prison, but I am convinced that the Belarusian people have a great resource. Today, a huge number of Belarusian men who are inside the country are aware of their responsibility and understand that at a key moment they must protect their families and defend their country.
QUESTION: The New York Time is expelling its editorial staff from Russia in connection with the cynical law criminalizing fakes against the military forces of the Russian Federation. Consider it a law that forbids the truth.
In this regard, I wanted to ask. Russia follows the path of Belarus, so to speak. Charter’97 was the first website in Belarus that was completely banned and blocked by the Lukashenka regime. Now we see that Russia is simply ousting all independent media out of the country. This is what happened in Belarus a year ago. The only difference is that the Russians do not have as much alternative information as we do in Belarus. We have a lot of alternative sources of information. This is Radio Svaboda, which you can read via a VPN, and so on. Doesn’t it seem to you that the iron curtain is falling between Poland and Belarus and further east? And these two countries are just going back to Soviet times. This was happening slowly from day to day, people did not even have time to leave. From today, Aeroflot and other Russian companies do not operate a single international flight at all, only those to Yerevan and Minsk remain.
NATALLIA RADZINA: I can say that yes, the iron curtain is falling, but the fact is that the situation that is developing today in Belarus and Russia plays against these regimes. They cannot be preserved for long. We see that the West is introducing quite strong economic sanctions today. Finally, they began to seriously discuss the need for an embargo on Russian oil and gas. I am convinced that the economic potential of Russia, and even more so of Belarus, which was in crisis even before the war, is actually very, very low, and I think that even in the next month we will see that serious events and serious popular unrest will occur both in Belarus and in Russia itself.
QUESTION: Can you explain, Natallia, how you see the situation, how much Lukashenka is still dependent on Putin, or is he trying to play his game under these conditions, and bargain for something on his own. What do you think? They say that Lukashenka does not want to get involved in this conflict, and is doing everything not to get into it to the last. But to which extent is this true?
NATALLIA RADZINA: Lukashenka is a waste of space today. That’s it! He is a nonentity, absolutely nothing depends on him today. Now they are discussing where he disappeared. I think that he has psychosis, he is freaking out, hiding in the closet again. Because he is aware of everything. He fell into the trap to which he was coming voluntarily during all these 27 years. Lukashenka does not decide anything in Belarus today. The country is under Russian occupation, we know from a source, including from the Belarusian military, that they are not even notified about troop movements. The Russian army is doing everything that it considers necessary on the territory of Belarus today. Lukashenka is a complete zero!
QUESTION: It sounds very, in fact, disturbing, to say the least. But, Natallia, if we return to the media topic, to what is happening with the information field. Yes, the Russians have both Meduza and Radio Liberty…
NATALLIA RADZINA: But they are all unavailable now. In Belarus, there were no such opportunities to block all this. In Russia there is.
QUESTION: I mean, today we learned a rather cynical news that Radio Sputnik, a propaganda radio, will broadcast on the frequencies of Ekho Moscow. In your opinion, how critical is all this rapid compression of the information space in just a week for people to move on to what you said at the beginning? To talk to each other and pass on information not through the media, but from hand to hand, as they say.
NATALLIA RADZINA: In Belarus, all this happened before, we prepared for this. Belarusians transferred their editorial offices abroad. And that is why today we have independent sources of information, thank God, Belarusians know how to use VPN, they know perfectly well that it makes no sense to count on an opportunity to freely read websites in Belarus. As for Ekho Moscow — back in 1996 in Belarus, they closed a wonderful independent Radio 101.2. After its closure, Radio BRYU began to broadcast on its frequency. There is nothing new under the sun. It already happened in Belarus. I advise my Russian colleagues to go abroad as soon as possible and set up editorial offices in the EU countries. This, of course, should have been done the day before yesterday, but if the situation caught you by surprise, then go out, create newsrooms, get new accounts on YouTube, create new websites and broadcast, and the Russians, I am convinced, will also be using VPN in the near future and read independent sources of information.
QUESTION: Do the Russians need it? Do they want this independent information? Or are they ready to believe in everything that Russian propaganda shows them on federal channels?
NATALLIA RADZINA: As I said, a huge percentage of people are fooled, I can judge by my relatives. In Russia, some people are absolutely adequate, especially young people, they have been reading information on the Internet for a long time and do not watch TV. These people understand everything perfectly well. If we take older people, 60+, then these people, for the most part, watch TV and so far they are simply inadequate, so there is no point in even arguing with them. I think that a very short time will pass when the sanctions will take effect, when their children will also suffer, who are at an active age and who will lose their business, who will go bankrupt. I think they will understand what a catastrophe Putin has led them to.
QUESTION: Will they say it's Putin? Because they have such a chain in their heads: “It's all the West, it's Obama who came and did us bad things.” Will they blame the West? “We wanted good for the Ukrainians, but we were used, and they found a reason to destroy Russia.”
NATALLIA RADZINA: I am not a psychiatrist to deal with this disease, which unfortunately affects many Russians today. I can only say one thing that Belarus should think today that in the future, when we overthrow the Lukashenka regime, we should build a border with Russia, we should break all union agreements signed by Lukashenka and go to the European Union and NATO. That’s it! With Russia, we will not be able to build a country. The time for illusions has passed. We must go to Europe.
QUESTION: By the way, what do you think, we saw a year ago and continue to see an example of Belarusian unity, when a huge number of people, Belarusians living outside the country, began to unite and help. It was very impressive, I must say. Right now, dozens of thousands of Russians are leaving. These are the most educated, the youngest people. What do you think could happen here? Can a new wave of Russian immigration become a force?
NATALLIA RADZINA: Perhaps, if they are included in the life of their country, as many representatives of the Belarusian diaspora are included. Because some representatives of the emigration simply leave and start their life in the West and care more about their material well-being. It is very important that there are structures that are actively working for Russia. Because mentally I am always in Belarus. I'm trying to change the situation in Belarus. In fact, I don't live in Poland. My body is here, but my thoughts and heart are always in my country.
QUESTION: And, perhaps, finally, if we talk about sanctions, it became known today that a new package has been agreed, these are already sanctions against the Lukashenka regime. They concern a whole group of trade sectors, a whole bunch of things, it would take too long to list them. In your opinion, for how long will these sanctions be able to bring down the Belarusian economy, become such a strong blow, especially against the background of the fact that the Putin regime is losing money and, probably, Belarus will not be able to count on any loans, handouts.
NATALLIA RADZINA: You are right, you are absolutely right. Today Belarus cannot count on any loans from Russia, because a huge amount of Russian resources is spent on the war, and I think that the Belarusian economy is in for a collapse and decay within a month or two. Therefore, Belarusians today need to be patient, and prepare for the decisive battle.