The Belarusian opposition has drawn up and published a document addressed to the structures of the European Union, European politicians and deputies. It actually contains a program of action for the near future, and all the proposals, according to experts, are within the institutional capacities of European governments, that is, they are quite realistic:
For the European Union and the United States, and for all countries that consider themselves the keepers of democratic traditions, a critical moment comes regarding the dramatic events in Belarus.
September 14 like and it was expected that a meeting between Lukashenko and Putin took place.
Judging by how it was being prepared, what statements were made by Putin and the Russian Foreign Ministry, the plan proposed by Lukashenko should be finally agreed upon at the meeting.
This is a plan of the so-called "settlement" through the announced constitutional reform, after which Lukashenko promises to hold free presidential and National Assembly elections.
This plan is presented as a "liberalization plan", since it contains the removal of restrictions on the development of political parties, the transfer of part of the powers from the president to parliament, etc.
It is clear that the Belarusian society is completely ready for liberalization, and the transition to parliamentary democracy, and to constitutional reform. However, in the reverse order. First, Lukashenko leaves, then free elections, including parliamentary ones, and only after that constitutional reform.
The plan is a gross deception: the reform package proposed by Lukashenko - when viewed from the West may seem to some to be "liberalization", but in reality it simply brings the Belarusian political system to the Russian model - with fictitious powers of parliament, with a system of loyalist (supposedly "opposition" parties ). It is not a step towards real inclusive politics, but a transition to a more sophisticated model of electoral authoritarianism.
The Kremlin fully supports this plan. Lukashenko has already presented it to the OSCE, and Putin will promote it in negotiations with Paris and Berlin.
If the European countries agree with this plan, and it gets the support of the OSCE, it will be perceived by the Belarusian society as a harsh betrayal.
The European Union has already created a strong starting position for further support of the Belarusian society.
An emergency summit of heads of European foreign ministries on August 19 did not recognize the elections as valid. At the summit, an agreement was reached on sanctions. These are sanctions against those responsible for violence, repression and election fraud. Economic sanctions are not expected. The coordination of sanctions and preparation for their adoption is proceeding at a high pace. The sanctions are expected to be passed on September 21. The Baltic states on August 31 have already independently imposed sanctions against 30 high-ranking Belarusian officials, including Lukashenko.
On September 9, PACE called on the Council of Europe to create an international body to collect information and preserve evidence of crimes against human rights committed in Belarus after the August 9 elections. On September 10, the Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas) recognized Svetlana Tikhanovskaya as the only elected leader of Belarus.
As of September 10, Lukashenko and his special services continue, without slowing down, to liquidate the Coordination Council. Of the members of the presidium, only Svetlana Alexievich, the Nobel Prize laureate in literature, remained at large and inside the country. Deportations are carried out without any legal basis, as was the case with Kovalkova, and then with Rodnenkov and Kravtsov. Maria Kolesnikova and Maxim Znak are in jail, they are charged with an article about "an attempt to seize power".
The Kremlin is carrying out large-scale interference in the internal affairs of Belarus, providing direct support to Lukashenko.
This support is carried out in three areas:
We are also aware of the work of several groups on the ground connected with the Russian special services, but they are more likely to work to keep the situation under the control of the Kremlin, rather than directly help Lukashenko.
It must be emphasized that, unlike the events in Ukraine in 2014, Putin is acting in such a way as to avoid accusations of “interference”. Support is provided institutionally - by the government, state corporations, state media.
The mobilization of pro-Russian parties and organizations is taking place along the lines of supporting constitutional reform and strengthening the role of parliament. All notable pro-Russian figures in Belarus have already made policy statements and articles.
Violence and repression in Belarus
The events of August 9-13 are shocking. The scale of demonstrative violence by special forces on the streets and during detention in isolation wards seems to be unparalleled in the political history of Europe in the post-war period, even when compared with the repressive measures of the right-wing dictatorships in Portugal and Greece in the first half of the 1970s. or with the actions of the governments of the countries of the Eastern bloc in the second half of the 1980s. Lukashenko’s actions bring to mind the suppression of the “Prague Spring” of 1968 or the dispersal of a rally in Tbilisi in 1989.
Such events in modern Europe cannot remain without investigation by a special international commission.
Poisoning of Navalny
Putin's support for Lukashenka comes against the background of a monstrous fact of political banditry - an attempt on the life of Alexey Navalny using a chemical warfare agent. This event is on a par with the murders of Magnitsky and Nemtsov and in a series of poisonings of other opponents or critics of the political regime. It should be emphasized that in no case did the Kremlin conduct an exhaustive investigation, ignoring the demands of the Russian and international community. There is a direct long-term parallel between Lukashenka's actions and Putin's actions against the opposition, de facto it is one and the same set of methods of authoritarian suppression of a social movement, consisting of intimidation, bribery, political terror (attacks, murders, disappearances of people), forced emigration, or deportation.
Routine actions mean betrayal
Fundamental factor: There is a growing mass perception of the ineffectiveness of the sanctions and a sense of their devaluation. "Betrayal of the West" turns into a topic of historical significance. For the societies of the post-Soviet transit countries, the position of the democratic governments of the leading Western countries is perceived as a compromise with authoritarian regimes based on political egoism. The events in Belarus and the poisoning of Navalny are undoubtedly critical points in the perception of this opportunism. The possible real reaction of the countries of the democratic world is limited by the institutional and legal possibilities that they have. Action cannot be expected to go beyond what will be approved by the voters of these countries. However, it is clear that the response to the current situation cannot remain within the limits of "expanding sanctions".
An extraordinary situation requires extraordinary measures
The Belarusian crisis is an extraordinary situation in the center of Europe, on the borders of the EU and NATO. The unprecedented scale of electoral fraud, the unprecedented scale of police brutality towards peaceful protesters, mass torture in places of detention, several killings, disappearances and abductions - this is an incomplete list of what is happening in Belarus after the elections.
In an attempt to retain power, Lukashenko surrenders the independence of Belarus and the future of the Belarusian nation to Putin - he has already publicly asked for military assistance to suppress the protests, and also secretly opened the doors for the landing of Russian propagandists, led by the Republic of Tatarstan. This landing should synchronize the work of the Kremlin and Lukashenko's propaganda. In fact, we are dealing with a hybrid aggression of the Kremlin against sovereign Belarus, suppression of the striving of Belarusians for democracy, aimed at the “soft annexation” of Belarus.
This means that the response of the European Union and the United States, international organizations, alliances of national governments in the current situation should be a response that leaves the impression of a massive package that goes beyond previous actions. The simultaneous introduction (or announcement) of the entire package of measures is important.
In our opinion, this package should consist of the following steps: