Ukraine can help to set Belarus free.
This is what the editor-in-chief of the Charter97.org website,Natallia Radzina, said in her interview with the Ukrainian TV channel "Kyiv".
- Regarding the information that Russia is planning to invade Belarus in 2020. What is the attitude to this information in Belarus? Have they paid attention to it or not?
- Frankly speaking, I don't quite understand what sensationalism is in the statement of the Ministry of Defence. The fact is that Lukashenka managed to stay in power in 2020 exclusively thanks to the all-round support from Russia. The regime was provided with political, financial and military assistance, because we know that Rossgvardia fighters were involved in suppressing mass protests against falsified results of the 2020 presidential elections in Belarus. Also, a Russian propaganda "landing force" arrived in Belarus, replacing the staff of Belarusian TV channels who were massively dismissed at the time. In other words, the support was all-round, and Lukashenka succeeded in staying in power solely thanks to Putin.
As for the military equipment, it was already on the territory of Belarus then, because let's not forget that in 2019, there was a large-scale Russian-Belarusian military exercise and we know that even then not all Russian equipment and not all military forces were withdrawn from the territory of Belarus.
Now Belarus is a country that is actually occupied by Russia. Large-scale Russian-Belarusian exercises were also held in February 2022. Russian equipment and troops did not leave the country and there was an attack on the territory of Ukraine. So I think it is very important to understand now that the Lukashenka regime is a co-aggressor. It is precisely because of the Lukashenka regime's attitude that the missile attacks on the territory of Ukraine are taking place today. And a tough and principled reaction of the Ukrainian authorities to the dictatorship in Belarus is very important.
- What steps should be taken? What kind of reaction should there be?
- First of all, a trade embargo, which has recently been imposed by Ukraine on Russia, should be introduced. For, frankly speaking, I was somewhat bewildered by the fact when it was announced that trade with Russia would be stopped, but nothing was said about Belarus. It is necessary to introduce exactly the same sanctions against the Lukashenka regime. We see that Western countries are doing it, they impose sanctions both against Russia and its ally - Belarus. Ukraine should do the same today. Ukraine should stop all trade with the Lukashenka regime: oil products, potash fertilizers and so on.
- Yes. Belarus, in fact, is also an aggressor country, from whose territory we got such a trouble on our own territory. Natallia, and what about the sentiments in Belarus? I understand that the screws are tightened a lot now, basically, it's been long in the territory of Belarus, but my friends, who live there, say that since the beginning of the invasion the control has become much tighter. What's the attitude among Belarusians, what's the support percentage-wise?
- An absolute majority of the Belarusians definitely support Ukraine today. An absolute majority of the Belarusians are against this war. Indeed, it is very difficult to express their views publicly because of the mass repressions, which continue in the country. However, we can see from the partisan movement, which has spread in the country today, that people are trying to do everything possible to help their Ukrainian neighbours somehow.
As for the situation in the country: the western sanctions are in effect. Why is it so important for Ukraine to be principled towards the Lukashenka regime? It is because there is actually a pre-strike situation in the country today. The sanctions imposed by the West have seriously affected the Belarusian enterprises. Recently, for example, there have been mass searches and detentions of trade union activists in Belarus. This also confirms that in the near future, Belarusian enterprises may face serious unrest, because people are extremely dissatisfied with the Lukashenka regime and their living standards.
It is necessary to continue the pressure on the Lukashenka regime today. For the changes, which we have been waiting for in our country for almost 30 years, are really possible.
- Perhaps, at least, it will be possible to get into ear of those who have Lukashenka in their heads through their stomachs. Tell me, please, what about the mobilization, if it is announced, if they try to conscript the Belarusians to the war against Ukraine, are there any options discussed to avoid mobilization in such a harsh situation, and to what extent do you consider such a scenario possible in general?
- We can say without a doubt that if the Belarusian troops enter the territory of Ukraine, there will be a mass surrender, a switch to the side of Ukraine, a handover of weapons. Both Russian and Belarusian authorities understand this very well, which is why they are in no hurry to bring Belarusian servicemen to the territory of Ukraine. We know that some Belarusian Special Forces units have been sent to the territory of your country, but they were withdrawn because of the mood among the Belarusian military who do not want to fight against their Ukrainian brothers.
- We hope that this will be the case. And we hope that they understand it. Thank you very much for joining us. Natallia Radzina is a Belarusian journalist, editor-in-chief of Charter'97. Long live Belarus!