Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makej said Minsk was ready to engage in a “constructive and objective dialogue” with foreign partners on the situation after the presidential election. How to read this statement?
This is still difficult to determine. On the one hand, it looks like a helpful gesture, and on the other hand, we know that there have been many of them in the past and it has led nowhere. The regime is certainly trying to expand its room for maneuver, but it is playing for time – today the European Union has to decide how it will react to Belarusian developments.
However, the regime has reportedly released the arrested protesters. These are already real helpful steps …
Yes, but if we look at the numbers, only about a sixth of all detainees have been released so far. In addition, there are hundreds of seriously injured people in the hospital and dozens of deported journalists and opposition leaders. Promises have not yet been fulfilled.
Protests in the countries continue and even a strike by state-owned enterprises has begun. Can the current situation be perceived as the biggest boost in local civil society during the reign of Alexander Lukashenko?
Certainly, we haven’t seen anything like it in the last 26 years. The country has really changed – the company has clearly expressed its interest in changing the situation in the country.
Is it certain that it really is the majority of society?
The fact that only a minority is angry and the majority is silent was witnessed in Belarus around 2010. At that time, the protesters’ protests were bloodily suppressed. Now the situation is really different. Independent polls clearly show that Lukashenko has lost majority support.
The question is how the organizations conducted those independent surveys.
The surveys were carried out by monitoring commissions of, among others, Honorary Citizens, an independent protest movement whose activities were permitted by the regime itself.
So can these results be trusted? In such tense situations, it is probably difficult to expect anyone to maintain one hundred percent fairness.
That is a question. However, the West wanted election commissions to be able to monitor foreign observers. However, President Lukashenko did not allow this and, on the contrary, allowed this organization. The truth is that the mode takes those numbers that would come out of the exit polls (Research resulting from interviewing people who have just recalled, ed. note), he feared, because the election could lose legitimacy. However, the falsification of election results is also confirmed by the numbers of exit polls from embassies. Some people were not even allowed to vote by the embassy.
What development can be expected now?
This is really difficult to predict. For example, in the middle of the week, we saw that the protests gradually weakened, but eventually people returned to the streets en masse and a nationwide strike began. Two factors will play a key role – how the European Union and Russia will react.
What are the options?
I believe that the European Union will be strict with Belarus and that the enforcement of the sanction mechanism is likely. The Baltic states have a very hawkish position in this respect, as do the Scandinavian countries and then, for example, Poland. The Czechia also has a relatively strong position. It will be crucial whether states such as Hungary, France and Germany can be persuaded, because they do not want to anger Russia too much. (EU ministers agree to impose sanctions on Belarusian officials shortly before 7 p.m., editor’s note)
And what to expect from Russia?
Russia is in an interesting position because it suits Alexander Lukashenko’s weakness, because it can conquer Belarus even more. At the same time, it will do its utmost to prevent the strengthening of pro-Western influences in Belarus. The scenario we know from Ukraine is a memento for him. What is happening in Belarusian society now, however, does not inevitably mean an obvious inclination towards the West. Most people want to get rid of the outdated regime, they want to live modern, but they don’t want to be pro-Western or pro-Russian.