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Belarus in Focus 2011

15 Nov

Agnieszka Kamińska, Raport Białoruś, (Poland)

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We will give Lukashenka free way to go

“Conversations between civilized Western politicians and Alexander Lukashenka are just like dialogue between tuna and shark”, Uladzimir Kobets says. Former Andrei Sannikau campaign chief fled Belarus after KGB had made him sign the collaboration agreement. Oppositionist announced publicly what happened to him. He explained he pretended to cooperate with KGB because it was the only way for him to leave prison. Uladzimir Kobets was arrested by KGB after a demonstration on December 19th. He was subject to mental and physical harassment in prison.

When he was still in Belarus, KGB appointed to him a task to compete in the elections to parliament in 2012 as a KGB agent.

In 2012 Belarus will hold parliamentary elections. In a message from the summit of Eastern Partnership the EU politicians urge Belarussian authorities that the parliamentary election should be held in accordance with OSCE standards. This is one of the preconditions for granting any financial assistance to Belarus by the West. Other necessary conditions are a.o. release and rehabilitation of political prisoners. Nevertheless Uladzimir Kobets has no illusions - the parliamentary elections will not be not democratic. In any case, Alexander Lukashenka may dissolve the parliament with one signature. Dissident notes that the issue of parliamentary elections overshadows the fact that presidential elections were illegitimate. Therefore, Belarus should held free presidential elections, without Lukashenka – says Kobets. - We will leave him airway, if he escapes, no one will pursue him - he added.

Uladzimir Kobets, who was Andrei Sannikau’s campaign chief, says the West should not hold any talks with Alexander Lukashenka because it is purposeless - the dictator will never agree for democratization of the regime, as this would mean its self-annihilation. Uladzimir Kobets adds that Lukashenka is not a politician who will run his country for four or five years, as Western politicians do. Therefore he thinks in different political categories, his only goal is to maintain power. “The man from the democratic world has to understand that there is a predator by his side, when they sit together at one table and talk”, oppositionist says. He believes economic sanctions and tough policy are the only effective measures to influence Lukashenka.

Oppositionist stresses that Belarus must fight first of all for moral values - they cannot be sold or consecrated for the sake of solving any other problems. Uladzimir Kobec reminds examples from recent history - Polish oppositionists, Czech President Waclaw Havel, who were imprisoned for their moral attitude - and eventually they achieved a real moral victory. - If you sell the moral values, you will lose - appeals the oppositionist to the West. 

Read the interview with Uladzimir Kobets:

Raport Białoruś: In 2012 Belarus will hold parliamentary elections. What will be the impact of this parliament on political situation in Belarus?

Uladzimir Kobets: It just does not make sense to pay much attention to these elections. First of all, the United States and the European Union did not recognize the results of presidential elections. We have no legitimate president. So first of all we should talk about new presidential elections, not parliamentary elections. Parliament elections could be held together with presidential ones, but on the condition that Belarusians should have a chance to choose normal parliament, such as the Supreme Council from the 90-ties, the last democratic parliament of Belarus. The present parliament has no powers. If today we hold talks about future parliamentary elections, we must also look at the dealings of Lukashenka administration. First of all, pro-Lukashenka non governmental association "White Rus" is preparing to transform itself into a political party. We already have information that many people are persuaded to join the organization throughout the country: if someone wants to make a career, they have to join “White Rus”.

Another thing I described in a statement about my imprisonment in Belarus. KGB wants some ex-oppositionists, who are now under their control, to take part in parliamentary elections. The idea is to create "KGB fraction”. The group would address the West as opposition fraction. Most of the parliament would be controlled by Lukashenka, but a smaller proportion, 5-10 people, will have a semblance of democrats, but they would be controlled by KGB. We had no true elections after those in 1996 were not recognized by democratic countries. There is no reason to expect that elections in 2012 will be free and democratic. Then, let's see what is parliament today. It's quasi-parliament. In 1996 the constitution has been changed and now our parliament has no powers. It can be solved any time by one signature of Lukashenka. It has no legislative initiative. It deals mainly with Lukashenka's decrees, which make the law. This parliament cannot control the finances or credits. You have to read our constitution. Even the democratically elected parliament would not represent any danger for Lukashenka.

It is a big mistake to support the idea of parliamentary elections alone. This means that you let the regime to get away with the brutal pacification of the demonstration on December 19, after which imprisoned presidential candidates were tortured in prison. You cannot forget this and you cannot allow the regime to get away with it.

How do you assess the outcome of the Eastern Partnership summit in Warsaw for Belarus, did it bring good solutions?

The Eastern Partnership is a missed opportunity for us. It was a very generous offer for Belarus. We see what get other countries, such as Ukraine, Georgia. Ukraine is quite close to sign an association agreement with the European Union. Lukashenka was acting purposedly, he never intended to integrate with the European area, because that would mean democratisation. He never planned that. The only thing that he was interested in was financial support and counterweight in his games with Moscow. Balancing   between the East and the West he repeated "if you give me no money, I will go to the West", and when the West did not give money, "I guarantee the sovereignty of Belarus, I will be forced to come close to Russia." It's nonsense, it is Lukashenka’s game. During 17 years he concentrated the power entirely in his hands and hands of his family, both in the broad and narrow sense. Lukashenka's only goal is to strengthen personal power and control over the country.

Belarussian dissidents who were present at the Warsaw summit say they are quite satisfied. They met with important politicians. The summit issued a message to Lukashenka – “if you release the political prisoners, if you allow for free parliamentary elections and democratic change, then the support for Belarus will be possible”. How do you evaluate this plan?

It is a great mistake of European politicians, who work with Lukashenka, that they cannot assess his true intentions. Politicians who pursue a democratic path have their term of office which begins and ends. But Lukashenka has ruined these mechanisms through which power could be transferred to someone else. If Western politicians think in short terms, Lukashenka thinks about all his life. We do not understand this position that Lukashenka might be given some support in return for the release and rehabilitation of prisoners. It should happen without any conditions. These people are not guilty. They are subject to tortures, they are being held in deplorable conditions. I was in prison and I can attest to this. These people must be freed immediately. And someone has to be hold responsible for all that happens in prisons. Now we have do to with something like human traffic. The European Union participates in this in a way. Lukashenka has learned this method of earning money, it became part of the economy, a way of repairing the budget. He received credit, liberated the prisoners, took prisoners, and it never ends. It is very convenient: to imprison a lot of people and then demand money, and so on. But it is human trafficking. In October Freedom House and CEPA (Center for European Policy Analysis) presented their raport about Belarus. Their proposal for Belarus after Lukashenka it is actually our position.

With Lukashenka we may be talking only about one subject – about him stepping down. What could be other the subject of talks with Lukashaneka’s regime? There is also no one to talk. Martynau? Makiej? They are not decision-makers. There is no one to talk to and not to talk about. The only topic should be transfer of power, and negotiations should take place between Lukashenka and the opposition, not between the EU and Lukashenka. Lukashenka does not guarantee independence of Belarus, as he says. He is trading the values which are holy for Belarusians and he cares only about keeping power. He and his collaborators are well aware that when he will lose his power, they will be held responsible for political killings, disappearances of politicians in the 90s - Viktar Gonchar, Hiennadij Karpienka, Anatol Krasouski, Dmitry Zawadzki. Someone rightly pointed out that privatisation in Belarus will be exceptionally enormous - 70 percent of the industry will be privatized. Lukashenko wants to sell everything in order to survive, but it has to be privatized in a free country, in a transparent way. Western business circles should keep that in mind: privatization can take place only after Lukashenka. All contracts signed by Lukashenko will be revised. Democratic authorities will not recognize

Lukashenko's signature under those agreements. He is not a legitimate president. What will be the future relations between Belarus and the European Union?

Over 50 percent of Belarusians want their country to belong to the European Union. It is the will of the nation. Belarusians can see how people live in the West, how they live in Russia. Free and independent parliament would mirror this position of Belarusians. Belarus would lead pro-European policy. Andrei Sannikau, who competed in the presidential election as head of European Belarus campaign, was the first in the ratings among oppositional politicians. We understand of course that also strategic partnership with Russia is very important, because it's neighbor, a great country and it will never change. Nevertheless, the world has to understand that Belarus belongs to Europe, not to Eurasia. Eurasian projects in Belarus are impossible, unless the Belarusians will leave the country and some other people will inhabit its territory.

After the election, so many people had to leave Belarus, I was shocked. I’ve traveled to several European capitals, I'm shocked how many had to flee because of persecution. It would be much easier when only one man (Lukashenka) would escape. What we need now are harsh sanctions and tough policy of the Western world towards Lukashenka. You could liberate Belarus from this nasty dictatorship in few months. Therefore, it is important for us to have a plan for Belarus after Lukashenka. There is no bloodthirsty opposition in Belaurs. There are civilized people and there will be no witch hunt. However, people surrounding Lukashenka must go. After that Belarus should receive the support from abroad. One could lift the economy, improve people's live very quickly.

Why, then, the European countries do not apply sanctions’ policy?

The economic crisis and the problems that have Greece and other countries are going through now, consume much attention of Europe, there are also important events in Africa and the Middle East. We understand that. But as it was very aptly argued by David Kramer, you cannot sell values, freedom, democracy. When you sell values, you will not receive economic

benefits When you sell moral values, you will lose. People who are in jail are being broken, recruited, humiliated. And then KGB can say – you are just like us, worth nothing. When Vaclav Havel was in prison, he has become a symbol for his nation. People saw that he is imprisoned for moral values, not because of money. These moral values are defended today by political prisoners: Andrej Sannikau, Zmitser Bandarenka, Mykola Statkevich, Ales Bialacki. The West should hold talks with them, not with Lukashenka and his bandits. Bandits should stay in jail or flee the country, while they still can. Our position is that we can leave Lukashenka free way to go, we leave for him the airway. If he wants to run, no one will chase him. But there is nothing to talk about with dictator.

Polskie Radio


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