The West will not return to relations with the Belarusian dictator.
Andrei Sannikov, head of the European Belarus civil campaign, attended the world's largest security forum in Halifax, Canada.
What was noteworthy about this year's forum? Was the issue of Belarus raised? Will the West continue to support Ukraine? The politician told Charter97.org:
- In my opinion, the Halifax Forum is the most interesting, eventful and dynamic of this kind of forums. It is quite compact in terms of the number of participants and representative in terms of their level.
There were two differences this year. Firstly, it was the 15th anniversary of the Forum, so the organisers held a competition for fifteen-year-olds from different countries. There were three places on the Forum.
Three fifteen-year-olds who showed a good knowledge of international issues won. They took part in the Forum and put questions to the world leaders. They were warmly welcomed.
The second and key difference was that the whole forum was held under the sign of Ukraine's victory. Each session was called: "Victory in Ukraine", and then - what it will bring. Starting with the very first plenary session, which was called "Making the World Safe Again". It was decoded that for this we need the victory of Ukraine. And other plenary sessions referred to the victory in Ukraine as an example for Israel, the promotion of new technologies, the improvement of the situation in the Pacific and the strengthening of world security. The theme was very powerful. A large number of Ukrainians present at the Forum appreciated it, as did the other participants.
- Was the issue of Belarus raised?
- You know, we have to get away from a linear perception. The issue of Belarus is not just the name of the country. The name was mentioned, of course, but the issue is much broader. I can say with regret that today the subject of Belarus dominates all the issues related to conflict situations, the weakening of international security. Why regret? Because we have often talked about how important Belarus is for our region, for world security. The dictator Lukashenka is not only a violation of human rights, but also a challenge to international security.
The unwillingness to listen to the democratic forces of Belarus has meant that today we have to return to these unlearned lessons, many of which concern our country.
We have a lot to say. This is what I did as the only participant from Belarus, meeting with the participants of the Forum. We have something to offer in order to solve the complex problems that have accumulated in large numbers today.
Returning to the specific name of the country, no one had to explain the situation in Belarus. As soon as you introduce yourself, the conversation turns to what can be done to resolve the situation in our country and how it will contribute to international security.
- On your Facebook page you posted a photo with Senator John McCain's widow, Cindy H McCain, and wrote that there was "bad news for Lukashenka". How much bad news for Lukashenka did you bring back from Halifax?
- I will say that I did not encounter any desire to try to "clean up" Lukashenka or to find some way to work with the dictator, as it used to be. No, it was about sanctions. About the fact that this is a regime of thugs who are killing an unprecedented number of people in Belarusian prisons today. They should be eliminated as soon as possible, just like Putin's regime.
There is a lot of bad news for Lukashenka, because he is now trying to pretend that "they will swallow everything I do", "they will return to relations with me". They won't, and that's the worst news for him and the good news for us.
With Cindy H. McCain, Executive Director of the UN Food Programme, we discussed how realistic are all the attempts by UN Secretary General Guterres, who is increasingly compromising himself (for example, with the Hamas attack on Israeli civilians), to get Lukashenka out of the sanctions.
Cindy assured us that she was well aware of these attempts.
- Who else have you met?
- Lots of people. Canada has a new Minister of Defence, Bill Blair. The forum is traditionally hosted by the Ministry of Defence of that country. I met him and we discussed the situation in Belarus. He confirmed once again, as I said, that they are well aware of who Lukashenka is. Canada is actively engaged in building NATO's capabilities in Europe, including in countries neighbouring Belarus.
They talked about how dangerous this dictator and the second madman from the Kremlin can be. They were also well aware of the danger posed by the possible deployment of nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus.
The former Prime Minister of Israel, General Ehud Barak, took part in the forum and spoke very professionally and in detail about the situation in the Gaza Strip and in Israel. As a person who has been directly confronted with all this, who knows all the protocols, he said that the propaganda lies today are simply out of proportion. Israel has very clear rules of engagement when fighting terrorists.
The first rule is that civilians - in Gaza, for example - are warned in advance of an imminent operation. They are asked to leave residential areas where Hamas is present.
He said the same thing about Al-Shifa hospital, which was stormed a few days ago. The Israeli military commanders and the doctors in the hospital are well aware of what can and will happen.
Ehud Barak explained in detail, which was helpful, the extent to which Israel follows its own rules, although he himself is a fierce critic of the current Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
In particular, he criticises him for his lack of support for Ukraine. Ehud Barak has said several times that one of the biggest mistakes of the current government is that it did not immediately decide politically and practically to help Ukraine.
A large number of delegates from the World Freedom Congress, of which I am a member of the leadership, attended the forum. There was its president Masih Alinejad, vice-president Garry Kasparov. The generals of the NATO countries were there, the leadership of the alliance, with whom I also met. We discussed the security situation in the region, Ukraine's progress in NATO, Russia's possible preparations for another aggression against Europe.
This forum was perhaps the most useful in terms of "aligning positions" on the security issues being discussed in the world today. It clarified what steps are being prepared in the war in Ukraine and so on. There were also freedom fighters from countries ruled by dictatorial regimes at the forum. For example, there was Yevgeniya Kara-Murza, who is on very good terms with us. I expressed my support for her in connection with the difficult situation with Vladimir Kara-Murza.
It was interesting to talk to Ukrainians, including about the activities of our volunteers in Ukraine, their attitude to them, what problems there are.
- Today many people talk about war fatigue. Based on the speeches, the mood and the dialogue on the sidelines, what is your impression of the West's determination to continue supporting Ukraine?
- It is not for nothing that the organisers of the Forum (first of all my good friend, the President of the Forum, Peter Van Praagh) called the theme "Victory in Ukraine". There is a lot of meaning in these three words. It means both the victory of Ukraine and the victory of the forces of the democratic world, the forces of good, in defending and helping Ukraine.
Of course there is fatigue, nobody is hiding that. There are certain logistical problems related to the lack of weapons and ammunition. There are many problems, but it has always been emphasised and sounded that "we have no right to defeat". We can discuss what victory in Ukraine would mean (apart from the complete liberation of the territories), but no one wanted to discuss the possibility of withdrawing support from Ukraine.