Lukashenka Builds Independence that Tends to Integration
Lukashenka delivered a speech dedicated to Independence Day earlier this month. According to his statements, the history of an independent and full-fledged Belarusian state started together with his election to the post of the President of Belarus in 1994. Lukashenka believes that Belarus merely used to be a part of Lithuania, Poland, and Russia in the past. “Our lands passed from one state to another over the past centuries. The Belarusian people faced political, economic, and cultural oppression. All of this can be found in our history”, said Lukashenka.
The power “wallowed in mud” in 1991-1994. “The elder generation hasn’t forgotten the image of Belarus in the hard 1990s, when the economy collapsed, the authorities were paralysed, the people suffered from unemployment and poverty, and we were trying to keep our balance on the edge of disaster. It must have been God that saved us. We started looking for a way-out, including a political one.”
Belarus was Rescued by Lukashenka in 1990s
He believes that he is a messiah, who has made Belarus independent and respected. “Luckily, I happened to be the President during that period, when we had to drag the country from the bog that it was in.” He is convinced that he embodied “the will of Belarusians, who managed to save their yearning for statehood through the ages and reach the goal they had set.”
Following Lukashenka’s speech, it seems that the way of authoritarian modernization is the only proper one for Belarus. He spoke a lot about the need of a strong power that helped “to increase the GDP almost thrice within the period between 1995 and 2011 and extend the scope of foreign trade almost eight times within the same time span. Over $140,000,000,000 USD were invested in the capital stock during the years of independence. The funds were invested in the development of enterprises and new technologies. In other words, the money was contributed to development. It was neither wasted, nor taken to offshore territories.”
Lukashenka formulated the credo of his foreign policy: to develop cooperation with Russia (and the West), but retain independence from Russia (and the West). “We have made our historical choice in favour of a new kind of independence that tends to openness and integration instead of isolation. We broke the vicious circle. We could withdraw to our national borders or become the (Russian) North-West territory. Both options were unacceptable for us.”
Lukashenka underscored that integration and cooperation have their borders though. “There are basic and fundamental things that we cannot sacrifice in any case. They cannot be sacrificed by any state that wishes to be sovereign and independent. We will never waive our statehood. We will do everything possible, in order to preserve the independence, gained through a lot of pains. We will never claim any alien property. However, we will never give up an inch of our land to anyone. Nobody will make us sacrifice our people’s freedom, achieved through much suffering by many generations. It will be only us, i.e. the people of Belarus, who choose our fate and our way of development. There aren’t forces in the East, in the West, in the North, or in the South that can make us obey them or force us to our knees.”
Message to the Russians
Lukashenka delivered a very precise message amongst the pompous statements above. It showed the border never to be crossed by Belarus in the process of integration with Russia: “I have to make this statement, since I read and hear more and more often about the immediate plans to take and share everything that Belarus and the Belarusian people have.They even have the lists of enterprises and buyers. They’ve decided for themselves, who will get BelAZ, MAZ, the Potash Company, Minsk Tractor Plant etc. It will never happen! Remember, it will never happen during the time of my presidency. We didn’t allow anyone to pilfer the public property in the past. We won’t allow doing it in the future either.”
This statement was not addressed to high-ranking Belarusian officials. Currently, the latter do not have any plans to buy large industrial enterprises. They have already privatised enough enterprises to make their dreams come true.
This statement can be regarded as another of Lukashenka’s signals to the Kremlin and his new-old partner Putin: he will not permit Russia to enter Belarus. Lukashenka cannot think of himself without the power he has. It is to Lukashenka’s advantage that he does not restrict himself to the struggle for his personal interests, holding on with all his strength to the power he has obtained. There is a broader meaning in his words about the independence of Belarus and his role in keeping the independence.
Belarus Detains Teddy Bear Photographer – Civil Society Digest
Young Belarusian photographer faces criminal charges over the teddy bear stunt. Belarus arrests and charges anti-nuclear activists while Dmitry Medvedev was visiting Minsk to finalise $10 billion nuclear power plant deal. The 2012 Eurovision song contest winner Loreen meets human rights defenders in Belarus.
Photographer facing criminal charges over teddy bear stunt. Belarus KGB has extended detention of Anton Surapin, who is formally suspected of helping foreigners illegally enter Belarus. The 20-year-old student at Belarusian State University's Journalism Institute, was detained on July 13 over pictures of “pro-free speech” teddy bears that were allegedly dropped on Belarus from a plane piloted by representatives of Swedish public relations firm Studio Total on July 4.
On July 18, Studio Total co-founder Per Cromwell sent an open letter to Alyaksandr Lukashenka to reiterate that the Swedish PR agency had not had any contacts with Belarusian citizens before performing its flight to Belarus and express readiness to meet with investigators in the country.
Loreen met human rights defenders in Belarus. On July 13, in Minsk, Loreen, the winner of Eurovision Song Contest 2012 from Sweden, met with human rights defenders in Belarus. The meeting was attended by Ales Bialiatski’ wife, Natalia Pinchuk, human rights defender Valiantsin Stefanovich, journalists Iryna Vidanava (34 Multimedia Magazine), Ales Zaleuski (Belsat), Marina Koktysh (Narodnaya Volya), etc.
New criminal case opened against Dashkevich. Imprisoned opposition activist Zmitser Dashkevich has been charged with persistently disobeying the prison administration`s orders, an offense for which he may have his prison sentence extended by one year.
Minsk court convicts anti-nuclear campaigners. On July 18, Minsk Tsentralny District Court sentenced Irina Sukhiy, the NGO "Ecodom", to a fine of BYR 1,500,000 (about $180) on charges of disorderly conduct. Mikhail Matskevich, the Centre of Legal Transformation, was arrested for three days on the same charges. Minsk Maskowski District Court sentenced an environmentalist Tatsyana Novikava and Andrei Ozharovsky, a Russian citizen, to 5 days and 10 days in jail respectively. The activists planned to deliver an open petition against the construction of a nuclear power plant in Belarus to the Russian embassy on the occasion of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Minsk.On July 19, Greenpeace called on the Belarusian government to do everything in its possibilities to come to an immediate release and a reversal of charges given to all four citizens.
Legal Transformation Center appealed to Special Rapporteur. On July 20, Legal Transformation Center has appealed to Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders with an Allegation Letter. The Letter informs about the persecution of Belarusian human rights activists Tatiana Novikova, Andrey Ozharovsky, Michael Mackievich, Irina Sukhiy, Kasya Halitskaya, Varvara Krasutskaya, and Andrei Bondarenko and calls for action to end the practice of prosecutions for human rights activities in Belarus.
Weekly report on election monitoring: The Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections campaign released two weekly election monitoring reports. During the reported period the experts note that “currently the society does not notice the beginning of the election process” and observe intensification of targeted repression against the opposition structures and the civic society. One of the general conclusions is that "election legislation fails to ensure the transparency of the process of forming the district election commissions… Civil society structures are unable to influence the activity of these bodies."
Civil Society Activities
Belarusian civil society at OSCE meeting. Yuliya Slutskaya, director of Solidarity with Belarus Information Office, took part at an OSCE Human Dimension Meeting on July 12-13, in Vienna. Slutskaya was invited by the U.S. delegation when it became known that Viktor Kornienko, coordinator of the Free Elections campaign, was not allowed to leave the country. As a voice of Belarusian civil society Slutskaya delivered the main message that Belarusian society calls for vote-counting during elections to be transparent.
EHU Class of 2012 graduation. Two hundred and twelve students — 189 undergraduate and 23 graduate students — were awarded diplomas by the European Humanities University (EHU) at a graduation ceremony held in historic Vilnius Town Hall. EHU Founding Rector Anatoli Mikhailov congratulated students and encouraged them to stay in touch with each another and their alma mater.
The National Platform conference. On June 29-30, the Conference of the Belarusian National Platform for the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum took place in Minsk. The Conference elected the NP Steering Committee and Uladzimir Matskevich as its head for the coming year, and adopted several final resolutions: "On the release of political prisoners", "On the European dialogue on modernization with Belarusian society" and "On ensuring the freedom of the electoral process". Because of disagreements, the adoption of the Concept of the NP Development was postponed until the next Conference which is scheduled to hold this autumn. Full video recording
Meeting in Grodno Euroclub. Grodno Euroclub, supported by the movement For Freedom met with Olga Stuzhinskaya, head of the Office for Democratic Belarus. Stuzhinskaya told about the mechanisms of cooperation of EU institutions and civil society in Belarus, as well as answered numerous questions. The meeting was attended by members of the movement For Freedom, UCP, the campaign "Tell the Truth, students, and journalists.
AD.NAK! awarded winners. On July 5, the 3rd Festival of Belarusian-language advertising and communications AD.NAK! ended with a solemn ceremony of awarding the winners. In particular, among the winners are posters and T-shirts for Liapis Trubetskoy's song "Hray" (section "Belarusian-oriented advertising and communication project"), "Bulboks" (section "Social significant projects»), etc. The Festival was organized by the culture campaign Budzma and web portal marketing.by.
Green map. New interactive Green map informs about 170 places in Minsk where it's possible to give for recycling paper, glass, plastic, metal, batteries, etc. Soon the map will cover all over Belarus. Map has been developed by the Center for Environmental Solutions (Minsk). The idea belongs to Greenpeace Russia.
Study visit to Tallinn. On August 12-18, a study visit "Information and communication technologies for education sector of Belarus" will take place in Tallinn, Estonia. Representatives of Belarusian profit and non-profit education sector are invited to participation. The organizers of the visit are E-Governance Academy (Tallinn) and Pact, Inc.
Belarus Digest prepared this overview on the basis of materials provided by Pact. This digest attempts to give a richer picture of the recent political and civil society events in Belarus. It often goes beyond the hot stories already available in English-language media.