Lukashenka Backed Himself Into a Corner
As a result, no one knows what is happening to Belarus. Its leader is not an exception. Everyone became much more vulnerable towards foreign pressure and influence. Both opposition and Lukashenka, consciously and unconsciously, suffer from this vulnerability in their relations with West and East, but most importantly in their internal policies. Lukashenka, of course, is suffering more. After 19 December, he actually should have fear of the own system he built. For good reasons.
Active persecution of civil society by the security services prevented a meaningful rapprochement with the West and pushed the country toward Russia, undermining its independence in a dangerous way. Given innumerable personal links between many members of Belarusian and Russian security agencies one can not exclude probability of Russian involvement in the crackdown. Perhaps not really direct, yet extremely efficient one.
Subsequent developments only support this hypothesis. There is also other proof, such as new cabinet under prime minister Mikhail Myasnikovich – the person which personifies docile nomenclature of late Soviet Belarus, undoubtedly willing to carry out any orders and having no proven commitment to independence. A bulk of his cabinet members are persons born outside Belarus and ethnic Russians.
Another evidence were recent publications in the main propaganda outlet of the regime, “Belarus Segodnya”. It accused Poland and Germany of planning and supporting opposition protests. And it did not mention more than well-known support given to some opposition groups from Russia altogether. The first such accusation against Germany (Poland was frequently accused of such things in the past) means that Moscow or its friends in Minsk strike back in retaliation for the European pre-election attempts to get Lukashenka closer to Europe.
A number of recent actions of the Belarusian regime seemed to have had no other goal except for further irritating the European governments – like attempted intimidation of some detainees' relatives and preventing them from attending a Warsaw conference. They did not help Lukashenka in any possible way yet they guaranteed the anger of Europeans and closure of their doors to the Belarusian president.
Of course, the speculations above are more assumptions than knowledge. Current developments are difficult to interpret, because they seem to be so illogical and irrational. Yet the result is absolutely clear. The only stakeholder which has already benefited from 19 December is Russia. And it is going to benefit even more as Belarusian relations with the West become more strained. The game, however, may be more complicated.
This week, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov stated that his country supported the recent resolution of the Council of Europe criticizing human rights in Belarus. That means that Russia can aim at weakening Lukashenka's legitimacy and standing both internally and internationally. Such scenario of Russia's weakening Lukashenka has been discussed by Belarusian analyst Yury Chavusau almost a year ago.
But in any event, it would be a mistake to consider that the Belarusian president is a victim of the Russian intrigue. It would be also naive to try to save him from the Russian trap by overtures from the West, which Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė tried to do.
First, the current situation in Belarus has been created by Lukashenka himself. It was him who has been benefiting from Russian subsidies and political help for many years. It was also Lukashenka who set up security services so vulnerable to the Kremlin influence.
Second, there are situations when it is perfectly clear what is evil and what is good. No matter what brought the people to the streets on the voting evening, no matter whose money helped Niakliajeu and Sannikau – any disagreements are to be solved without resort to violence and torture.
The recent developments in Belarus demonstrated that there is no such thing as rule of law in the country. Anytime any citizen can be attacked, detained, isolated and stripped of his rights, including rights to medical or legal aid. This is the situation Belarus finds itself after 19 December. Therefore, there is no need to seek justification for regime's behavior and speak about 'shades of gray'. Today it is perfectly clear what is white and what is black in Belarus.
Between 2007 and the end of 2010, Belarusian politics was transforming into politics from purely moral choices. Unlike with purely moral issues, in politics it is necessary to negotiate and compromise. For a couple of years, Lukashenka managed to communicate with the international community and created ambivalence even among many Belarusians critical of his regime concerning the opposition and possible Russian danger.
Today, everything is outside out of the political sphere. Even more so than prior to 2007. Now the existence and change of his regime are moral issues, linked to the basic human dignity and basic human rights. The question as to whom and what to support in Belarus today is no longer a political but a moral choice.
Appeal to the Members of the European Parliament by Belarusian Civic Leaders
Appeal by representatives of the Belarusian civil society, prepared for the recent session of the European Parliament.
APPEAL to the Members of the European Parliament on the Situation in Belarus
Dear representatives of the nations of democratic Europe,
A dictatorial regime has been ruling in Belarus for 16 years already.
The so-called presidential elections took place in Belarus on the 19 December 2010. The number of representatives from the opposition parties, allowed to join the polling station electoral commissions, amounted to 0.25% of the overall number those commission members. Independent observers were disallowed to monitor the vote count. At those few polling stations where independent observers were able to prevent the substitution or slipping in of the ballots cast on the voting day, and to secure their public count, A. Lukashenka’s electoral support on the 19 December election day was from 32% to 45% .
Similar results were obtained also through independent exit-polls.
Therefore there are good grounds to doubt that A. Lukashenka received an amount of votes exceeding 50% as required to win the elections in the first round.
Yet before the voting ended and prior to the vote count, the state authorities’ security services started physical reprisals against A. Lukashenka’s political opponents.
The peaceful protests by dozens of thousands of citizens in Miensk against the rigging of election results on the 19 December were brutally suppressed by the police special forces.
Hundreds of people were beaten up to blood and maimed. Seven of the presidential candidates were thrown into the KGB prison even before the election results were officially announced. Over 600 peaceful demonstrators were subjected to administrative arrests. In response to the peaceful protests against the election result falsification the state authorities unleashed a campaign of mass intimidation.
People continue to suffer dismissals from work and expulsion from education. Every day the KGB interrogates political and civil activists, journalists, human rights activists, conducts searches in offices and private flats, as well as equipment confiscations. The country is in the grip of political terror. Lukashenka strives by force to remain in power yet again, for which he has lost either legal or moral right.
According to the figures of the Central Electoral Commission, which is completely under Lukashenka’s control, he allegedly obtained 79.65% of the votes. But the final protocol of the OSCE observer mission recorded the fact that the election process failed to correspond to democratic principles and norms, and recognised the elections as unfree and undemocratic. The independent Belarusian observers came to the same conclusion.
We, the voters who nominated the democratic candidates, being also the candidates’ initiative group members, election observers, political prisoners and their relatives, are calling on the European Parliament, as well as on all the national and international institutions of the democratic states of Europe, to demonstrate their will to stand for the values on which the community of Europe is based, to stand up for the inalienable democratic rights and freedoms of the Belarusian people, as of one of the European nations. It has been confirmed to all of us yet again that the anti-democratic regime in Belarus is capable of undergoing neither re-education nor evolution, nor changing its substance.
The dictatorial regime in Belarus is a menace to the independence of Belarus, as well as to the European stability.
1. Not to recognise the presidential elections in Belarus as free, fair, democratic, or corresponding the OSCE standards, and accordingly, not to recognise their declared outcome as a legitimate expression of the will of the Belarusian people. We support the appeal by the Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic (a historical successor in the free world of the Belarusian democratic statehood) and the Belarusian diaspora organisations to the democratic governments to refrain from using the definition of “President of Belarus” in relation to the initiator of the repressions Mr A. Lukashenka.
2. Strongly to demand the immediate release of all the de facto political prisoners, as well as a stop to the wave of political terror in the country. Not to allow A. Lukashenka a possibility to use the prisoners as political hostages in a trade for solving the problems of his foreign relations.
3. To initiate the creation of an international commission made of the European Union parliamentarians to investigate the facts of the mass beating and repressions in Belarus both on the 19 December 2010 and during the period thereafter.
4. To stop any political contacts with the authorities in Miensk until the release of all the political prisoners and a complete stop to political persecutions.
5. To limit the necessary contacts with Belarus authorities to the technical level. To stop all contacts with those ministries and security agencies of the government whose representatives were and remain directly involved in the election rigging and political repressions.
6. To restore and expand the practice of denying entrance to the democratic countries of Europe to all those officials directly or indirectly involved in the election rigging and political repressions. Taking into consideration the previous experience of securing the release of political prisoners, to use all possibilities of targeted sanctions against such persons, as well as against entities under their control.
7. To reconsider the issue of Belarus’s participation in the Euronest inter-parliamentary programme not before fair elections take place in Belarus.
8. To bar Belarus from participating in inter-governmental programmes supported in the framework of the “Eastern Partnership”, until the fulfilment of the four EU democratisation conditions for Belarus.
9. To compensate the restriction of contacts with the anti-democratic state authorities by a substantial expansion of assistance to the people and civil society of Belarus:
– to abolish Schengen visas for the citizens of Belarus;
– to provide institutional support, including within the Eastern Partnership framework, to the independent mass media of Belarus and to those mass media broadcasting for the Belarusian audience from other European countries (Belsat TV, Radyjo Racyja, European Radio for Belarus etc.), as well as to the activity of democratic non-governmental organisations;
– to provide political support to those parties, movements and civic initiatives that stand on the principles of democracy and human rights and are in opposition to the regime;
– to include Belarusian citizens in the EU programmes of higher education support;
– to devise a scheme of support for small business in Belarus, in a way as to exclude the state authorities’ involvement and influence;
– to bolster all other forms of assistance directly to the society of Belarus, and to the political repression victims in the country.
Belarus has changed after the 19 December 2010. A victory for democracy in Belarus is a task for Belarusians themselves: no one will bring us freedom except ourselves. Your solidarity and support in these difficult times will hasten our people’s advance to democracy and freedom.
Bahdanava, Iryna – sister of political prisoner Andrej Sannikau
Bakur, Jurka – participant of the Dec 19 protest action, victim of political repression
Bandarenka, Zinaida – actress, People’s Artist of Belarus
Barodka, Zmicier – presidential candidate A.Sannikau’s election agent
Bialacki, Ales – human rights defender
Chadyka, Jury – Prof. Dr. (Physics)
Chalezin, Mikalaj – Free Theatre art director
Chalip, Uladzimir – film director, father of a political prisoner, journalist Iryna Chalip
Dabravolski, Alaksandar – fmr. MP, member of the United Civil Party National Council
Ivaškievic, Viktar – head of Belarusian Popular Front Party, Minsk City Organisation
Kalada, Natalla – Free Theatre director, victim of political repression
Kanius, Hanna – presidential candidate U. Niaklajeu’s election agent
Laurouskaja, Iryna – Dr. (Architecture), member of the Public Council on Historical Heritage
Marholin, Leu – deputy chairman of the United Civil Party
Maslouski, Ihar – head of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party, Bierascie Region Organisation
Michniuk, Zinaida – leader of Trade Union of Radio Electronics Industry Workers, Bierascie region
Miech, Ales – parliamentary candidate in the 2008 parliamentary elections
Panasiuk-Šarenda, Palina – member of the presidential candidate A.Sannikau initiative group
Pietrusievic, Fiodar – member of the presidential candidate A.Sannikau initiative group
Placko, Zmicier – member of the presidential candidate V.Rymašeuski initiative group, participant of the Dec 19 protest action
Puk, Nadzieja – mother of a political prisoner, journalist Natalla Radzina
Puk, Valancin – father of a political prisoner, journalist Natalla Radzina
Sadouski, Piotra – fmr MP, Ambassador
Šarenda, Andrej – member of the presidential candidate V.Rymašeuski initiative group, victim of political repression
Siamdzianava, Halina – fmr. MP, member of the Minsk City Electoral Commission
Šurchaj, Zmicier – member of the presidential candidate V.Rymašeuski initiative group, participant of the Dec 19 protest action, a victim of political repression
Sviackaja, Valancina – election monitor in the Minsk City Electoral Commission
Viacorka, Vincuk – co-chairman of the United Democratic Forces, election monitor
11th January 2011