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Andrei Sannikov: Many ‘Black Swans’ Will Fly Before Regime Collapse

Andrei Sannikov: Many ‘Black Swans’ Will Fly Before Regime Collapse

The turbulence period continues for Lukashenka.

The leader of the European Belarus Civil Campaign Andrei Sannikov participated in the Lennart Meri Conference 2023 (LMC) in Tallinn and spoke about it with the Charter97.org website.

– It was an annual high-level international conference named after Lennart Meri, the first president of Estonia after the restoration of independence, who did a lot for his country's accession to NATO and the EU.

The heads of state, governments, foreign ministers, parliamentarians, analysts, public figures, and journalists attended the conference. This year it was called "Incipit Vita Nova – So Begins New Life". Lines from the works by Dante Alighieri were used for titles of sessions and topics at the conference.

It is expected that the focus of the conference, as in the past year, was Russia's aggression against Ukraine. However, there was not only the Ukrainian topic but also the security of Europe, relations between Europe and the United States, and relations between the global North and the global South. The event was attended by representatives of both the African continent and South Asia.

Traditionally, this conference is held under the patronage of the President of Estonia. And this year Alar Karis attended the conference and actively participated in its work.


It is interesting that three presidents of Estonia attended the conference. In general, having three presidents is highly exceptional for Belarus. Toomas Ilves, Kersti Kaljulaid and Alar Karis.


There were separate discussions on Russia with the participation of representatives of Russian academic circles and civil society. They also discussed general issues that concern the world community: freedom of the press, world energy security, and hybrid threats. There was discussion concerning a possible official invitation for Ukraine to take part in the NATO summit in Vilnius and conduct membership talks.

– Was the issue of Belarus raised?

– The Belarusian topic was not considered separately. There was a very interesting moment during one of the plenary discussions dedicated to the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius, where NATO Assistant Secretary General for Intelligence and Security Affairs David Kuttler participated. The President of Estonia asked the question: “You are talking about Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, but don’t you think that changes can happen in Belarus very quickly and soon a new, democratic Belarus will apply to NATO?”

For a high-ranking NATO official, the question was completely unexpected. He replied that "it's somehow difficult to think about it, because of the influence of Russia, the dictatorship" and so on. That is, he reacted to this question in a very bureaucratic way.


I had a personal and deep talk with the President of Estonia. He said that the trouble is that everyone starts thinking when it's too late. The Estonian President said that he saw that Belarus was much more ready to join NATO than others. Also to join the European and transatlantic bodies. The 2020 events demonstrated this perfectly.

In my conversations with the participants of the conference, I constantly raised this topic, because precisely the European Belarus Civil Campaign sets one of its goals to make it possible for free Belarus to join the EU and NATO.

This aroused great interest, because many really did not think and had never heard that the Belarusians had such goals, they only heard about caution in relation to these bodies from other opposition activists. As a result, very good discussions about the future of Belarus and Europe began, which just coincided with the public demonstration of the half-dead Lukashenka.

Politicians and experts began to discuss possible developments in Belarus due to the absence of the dictator and the reaction to these changes.

In this regard, the events that took place in Belarus helped revive the Belarusian issue in conversations with the conference participants.

– Who did you manage to talk to?

– I’ve managed to talk to many people, not only to the President of Estonia, but to the Prime Minister Kaja Kallas. I congratulated her on the fact that she again headed the Estonian government.

I consider her one of the strongest European politicians today.


We had an interesting conversation with representatives of Turkey. Just one of the topics was the elections in their country, which took place on Sunday. We know their results.

There were representatives of the analytical community, historians, for example, Timothy Garton Ash. We talked a lot about the Belarusian issue with the President of Halifax Forum Peter Van Praagh.


We discussed with Michael McFaul the sanctions against the criminals Putin and Lukashenka. He is developing sanctions together with the Ukrainians in a high-level group today. We discussed possible measures against the Belarusian regime.


– You have already touched on the topic of Lukashenka's illness a little. What did this story and the reaction of the Belarusian people and the regime show?

Everyone remembers the stories of the departure of dictators, especially Soviet and post-Soviet ones. The agony of Stalin, which received the name of "the Cheyne-Stokes Breathing", and Karimov, who was dead for a number of days and they were classifying information about it.

When I was asked what to expect, I said that it would be a complete lie.

They will show old footage of Lukashenka, then he will disappear again. Most importantly, the period of turbulence began and intensified during the war and it still exists. There will be quite a lot of "black swans" flying until this regime collapses.

It’s clear now that it will collapse. Obviously, everyone was interested in what would happen after Lukashenka. Here I said that I would like the security forces in Belarus to rise to protect the state, not the body, and help Ukraine in the war with Russia, but these are such good wishes that it is difficult to count on.

Moscow will try to intervene through its appointees, such as Volfavich and others. Lukashenka once again founded the formal procedures for the transfer of power when he changed the Constitution. Kachanava should become the successor according to the procedures, but it will not work.


No one will accept a woman at the head of a dictatorship. So we need to prepare for the infighting under the carpet, to watch who will now actively visit Moscow. There's already been an unscheduled visit of Foreign Minister Aleinik to Russia.

It will be interesting to follow the contacts of the regime representatives with Moscow. So we will understand who are the members of the Kremlin’s group in Belarus. We know some of them and others will show themselves.

– When discussing scenarios, much attention is paid to the topic of successors and Russian intervention. Does the Belarusian people have a window of opportunity or will everything be decided without us?

– I believe that it will be really impossible to keep this personalistic system. The system is focused on one dictator who is trying to exercise total control of everything, from cowpats to nuclear weapons, like a real maniac. Such systems are collapsing, it will happen in Belarus as well.

Of course, if this window of opportunity is reinforced by Ukraine's successes at the front, then we can say for sure that the political system in Belarus will change very, very soon.

A concentration camp in which the whole country lives, and punishment cells in which our political prisoners live, can’t exist on their own. The system has already begun to eat itself and will continue to do it intensively. Sure, this is a window of opportunity, and it is connected, among other things, with the participation of our volunteers in the war against Russian aggression on the side of Ukraine.

I believe that one of the main factors will be the release of political prisoners, which can change all the political alignments within Belarus. This must be achieved in every possible way.

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