Interview with Alicja Orchyk — Belarusian, 14 living in Poland now and witness the events in their country from Minsk.
Newsweek Polska: One of the strongest candidates of the opposition, Victor Babariko, will not participate in scheduled for August 9 presidential elections, as the authorities refused to register it. This is the end of dreams about the removal of Lukashenka from power by democratic means?
Alicja Orchyk: Victor Babariko was arrested in June. He remained a serious rival to Lukashenka, not even being able to take part in the campaign. His staff was active, used the help of lawyers. The campaign was carried out perfectly, and the people who practiced it, was ready for different scenarios. No legal reason to deny Babariko registration was not, he met all the requirements to the candidate for the presidency, and his staff have gathered a huge number of signatures — more than 425 thousand (registration required 100 thousand — approx. “Newsweek Polska”).
— Why was it not registered?
— Him in the campaign, including financial, allegedly helped some foreign organization. This, of course, not, his campaign Babariko financed himself.
— Before you enter into a confrontation with Lukashenko, Babariko circling in his orbit…
— Perhaps this too loudly, but if someone in Belarus for 25 years occupied an important position, he Willy-nilly can be in the orbit Lukashenko. Babariko never involved in politics. For 25 years he had served on the Board of Belgazprombank, was a philanthropist who supported the Belarusian culture and Belarusian prodigiosin art. He was brought to Belarus the works of famous Belarusian artists, such as paintings by Marc Chagall, who was born in the village of Liozno and grew up in Vitebsk. This collection are now in the hands of the Fund “Arthaus”, which belongs to the wife of the son of President Lukashenko Lilies.
In Belgazprombank in recent years carried out many routine inspections, any violations were not detected. Hounding the Bank and Babariko began in mid-may, when he announced his intention to run.
— Exclusion from the game Babariko means that Lukashenko is indeed afraid to lose and decided to settle the matter with their methods?
— Yes, although a fair electoral process in Belarus could only dream of. The opposition of the old guard accused the new candidates Tikhanovski, Babariko, Tsepkalo is that those legitimizing elections. The main complaint was: “Where were you when we were fighting with the regime? Why do you support the illusion that elections in Belarus can be democratic?”.
— Hence, such an attempt to fight Lukashenko was doomed to failure? Everyone understands that in a democratic way, he will not give up power…
Yes, but you need to understand the Belarusian mentality. We’re not too brave and not begin to resent that we are not really hurt. I won’t give estimates, but Belarusians, who for many years have been intimidated and treated with the help of state propaganda, reluctantly took to the streets to protest against the government. Few could afford to be 15 days in detention and because of this lose their jobs.
— Are you implying that people like Babariko or tikhanovski not only gave hope for changes, but also awakened the Belarusians in the spirit of protest?
— So. People understand that we are not the people slaves, that we are not doomed to poverty. We have all the social, intellectual, economic conditions, to spread its wings. Why do not allow us to end poverty? Why us for many years saying that $ 500 is the salary that you want to pray? In this crisis we get 200, but they still have nothing to buy.
— While the power will be Lukashenko, Belarus will remain one big farm. After all, it is a leader with the mentality of the Chairman of the collective farm, which he, however, was.
— Yes, it is, but something in Belarus is changing. If after the elections of 2006 or 2010, someone took to the streets to protest against electoral fraud, and it has enough police, people shrugged their shoulders: “Why do they climb? Who paid them?”. The power to do whatever she wants. Sometimes, the man arrested for the applause, and mute for shouting anti-government slogans. Propaganda was ubiquitous, and people had no access to objective information.
Now, thanks to satellite Internet, which is easy to connect in practically all countries, Belarusians have the opportunity to see how it looks in reality. In addition, the epidemic of coronavirus revealed the weakness of the regime. People have realized that the lack of an adequate response Lukashenko they or their loved ones may pay with your life. The residents of Minsk, Brest, Baranovichi saw that because of the small scope of the testing of their colleagues, brothers, parents get sick and come from the coronavirus in the hospital that the nurses there is no PPE that doctors nothing to print x-rays of the lungs of patients with covid-19 and so on.
In short, society has realized that the country is a mess, and Belarus Lukashenko — the big bubble. Previously, many turn a blind eye. Now people not only see, but also began to unite in order to help physicians, orphanages, teachers and so on. At the same time they saw that dissatisfied and resolutely-minded citizens, actually a lot, for example, it may be half the inhabitants of one of the staircases.
— The regime tries to suppress this civilian surge, a few hundred people already in jail.
— In recent days have arrested about 700 participants of different protests. Now an ordinary citizen, a layman, sees that something is not right, because the arrest can put even the man who was standing in line at the store, sewing the clothing with Belarusian symbols and inscriptions ridiculing the authorities. The people in my head something clicked.
— People got mad.
— In this case, what will happen on election day, that is August 9?
— I don’t know, the main event of today was the failure to register the candidacy of Babariko what will happen tomorrow, the day after tomorrow against this background, it is hard to say. Their signatures in support put 465 thousand people, for a country with a population of 9 million is a lot. After his arrest started the protest, people took to the streets when rejected 200 thousand signatures, filed a formal complaint to the court. They not only believed that it would change anything, as much as I wanted to annoy the authorities, to show that people are not helpless.
This is the beginning of the Belarusian “revolution of dignity”? The analogue of the “Arab spring”?
— I don’t know, but I sense something, this is my subjective opinion. I’ve never seen such social mobilization, and I fled from there after the 2006 elections. Earlier people do not talk about politics: they are either feared or believed that it does not make sense. Now they don’t just discuss it and criticize the government.
— Can start any riots?
— I wouldn’t be surprised if it came to it. To predict, however, is difficult. On the one hand, the Belarusians still have not been especially vigorous, with another — how much you can tolerate. One journalist correctly noted that once in 26 years and sport can come into a rage.
— Among those arrested were failed candidates for the presidency have also Sergei tikhanovski, who campaigned under the slogan “Stop the cockroach”. Meant Lukashenko, right?
— Yes, people long ago started calling it the cockroach mustache. This is a reference to a fairy tale Chukovsky “cockroach”, which tells about what small and weak, but a disgusting cockroach managed to intimidate all the animals.
— “Cockroach” is so effective that it remains in power for a quarter century, regularly leading by the nose of Europe and Putin.
— He’s already 24 years ago, eliminated the separation of powers, and within the year after the accession to the presidency created a special police unit, which helped him to stage a coup.
— Each mode has some rear. How big are they from Lukashenko? On what real support he can count?
— Hard to say, because the public opinion survey is forbidden. The may polls, which showed that his support only 3% of respondents (this also gave rise to a new nickname of Lukashenko), with Internet portals removed. I think it is supported by more than 3% of the Belarusians, but if in 2015 you could say that he enjoys the real support of voters at the level of 50-60%, now most had not. As for his rear, then one would count the people in leadership positions in administration, security and economic sectors, and then subtract 30%. It would be the people he can really count on.
— Hundreds of thousands of people?
— Maybe a million, because the police in Belarus — is a large structure.
— What should happen to the Belarusian regime collapsed? The opposition should go to the army, the police?
— I’ll tell you what I have (probably naive) dream. I don’t even want to think about that in 2020 in Central Europe will start the bloodshed. Fair elections should be held in which can participate all candidates. It is best that the opposition nominated a single person, for example, the same Babariko. In addition, people involved in the counting of the votes need to ask yourself a simple question, what country they live in. Not dead if any of their relatives from the coronavirus get arrested someone they knew while walking in Minsk Park? They would have to answer the question of whether they want to continue to kneel and kiss the government’s hands for $ 200. Perhaps we can do more? I believe, Yes.