Ales Bialatski: Regime in Belarus looks for benefit to gain from Ukraine’s misfortune
Before the meeting of Petro Poroshenko and the leaderships of the Customs and European Unions the authorities arrested opposition activists: police took a Young Front activist Dzmitry Kramianietski straight from home, while a Zmena activist Paviel Vinahradau was accused of disorderly conduct and jailed for 10 days.
Well-known Belarusian human rights activist and a former political prisoner Ales Bialatski told to the editorial staff of the charter97.org web-site that these arrests had vividly shown that the regime’s “grasp reflexes” work even before the eyes of the representatives of the democratic community of the European Union, while Lukashenka shameless uses the difficult situation in Ukraine solely to his own advantage: in order to improve his international position.
- The background of these meeting was painted in old colors – detentions of civic activists took place. This, of course, is very negative. These detentions once again show that, even during a visit of high European Union’s officials, the authorities in Belarus are not going to improve anything even for mere appearances. Deep down, these detentions had no sense. It is obvious that, having detained several people, the authorities did not change anything drastically, but this “grasp reflex”, which turns on during some serious events in Minsk, has worked, curiously enough, during the visit of the representatives of the European democratic community too.
- Why is Minsk not the best place for negotiations between Russia and Ukraine?
- Arrests of the opposition cause a certain disappointment and skepticism as to the location of this meeting. This emphasizes the fact that the location for the meeting was picked not in the best way, and Belarus cannot be involved as a neutral party. There are also other important reasons. First of all, it is the political dependence of the regime in Belarus from Russian authorities, and one absolutely cannot speak of any kind of neutrality of Belarusian authorities. Everyone says that they are puppets of the Kremlin, and they carry out a certain function, which the Kremlin has assigned them in this dramatic and tragic performance, taking place in Belarus now.
- What benefits did Lukashenka seek for, having took this role of a region’s “peacemaker”?
- I had a bitter feeling seeing how this situation was used by Belarusian authorities to their own advantage without any changes and any improvement of the domestic situation in the country. Unfortunately, European Union’s officials and Ukraine’s leadership agreed to this quite simple, but at the same time obviously thought through move. In Belarus nothing shows that the situation with democracy, human rights, Belarus’ neutrality and objectivity in international conflicts have improved.
- Some Ukrainian experts believed that there was nothing bad in holding diplomatic meetings with Poroshenko’s participation in Minsk. Where, in your opinion, such a meeting should have taken place?
- It seems to me that on part of Ukraine this is a short-sighted policy toward the Lukashenka regime. There are enough truly neutral states in the world, on the top of my head I can name Switzerland, which for centuries has served the function of a negotiation ground for holding similar kind of meetings. It seems to me that Belarusian authorities have used this situation without changing their authoritarian stance, in order to improve their international standing.
We would remind that on 24 November 2011 court found human rights activist Ales Bialatski guilty of tax evasion in an especially large amount and sentenced him to 4.5 year in high security prison and the confiscation of property. The reason for Bialatski’s criminal persecution was that he had banking accounts in Lithuania and Poland. The court did not take into account that the money, coming into the accounts, were used for human rights activities, and it was impossible to open an account in Belarus for these purposes, since Viasna worked illegally. The authorities have repeatedly denied the official registration of the human rights organization.
He was released under the amnesty on 21 June 2014 after almost 3 years of incarceration. For three years in a row Bialatski was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and was officially recognized a prisoner of conscience.