Sannikov on Belarus, Russia and Georgia
28 April, 2017
Sannikov on Belarus, Russia and Georgia
On March 25, there were many angry faces in Minsk. Why? Because a certain “last dictator of Europe,” as he is affectionately dubbed by his European counterparts, saw it fit to introduce a new legislation in the country aimed at… well, laziness. The law against “social parasites” angered many a “lazy” person, who claim that instead of solving unemployment, the government has put blame on the people. The political opposition, united in coalition, stood together with society on the streets. And while the protests were peaceful, there were arrests nonetheless. Are there clouds gathering over Lukashenko’s future? Could this be the start of what many view as the most durable, if undemocratic, leadership in the post-Soviet space? Andrei Sannikov, a chief rival of Lukashenko and 2010 presidential candidate (for which the Batska promptly sent him to prison) spoke with Panorama Talk Show and GEORGIA TODAY from London, where he was granted asylum after Lukashenko finally pardoned him, under Western pressure, in 2012.

What’s your take on the protests? How different is this from the protests of the past?

They were triggered by the so-called decree on Social Parasites. According to which, if a person does not work for 183 days a year, this person has to pay taxes. But it was only a pretext because when protests started, the slogan was “Out! Go away!” Immediately, it started to get political because people are fed up with the 23 years of dictatorship. It’s too much. And the life, especially this year, is very difficult for Belarusians. Unemployment is growing, prices are up, and salaries are down. The economic situation is catastrophic.

You mentioned the President should go. Do you really see that happening through these protests?


That’s what the people demand. So far the opposition is trying to keep it peaceful. And that’s why the offer from the opposition is negotiations and eventual elections, free elections under international supervision. That is the best way out that would help us to avoid conflict inside and outside the country.

Do you see a link between the protests in Belarus and in Russia? Are these people with the same beliefs?


I think so. There is recognition of impossibility to live under dictatorships. Although this dictatorship in Belarus has been much longer than in Russia. People are fed up with it. They started to revolt both in Russia and Belarus. The system is very strong and they started to use
violence against, let me stress, peaceful demonstrators. But the indignation is there. The rejection of systems both in Belarus and Russia is visible.

An authoritarian leader and a pro-western former minister who resigns and challenges him to elections – there was the same prelude for you and ex-president of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili. But while Saakashvili vs Shevardnadze ended in the former’s favor, the same couldn’t be said about Lukashenko vs Sannikov. Why do you think that happened?

You must understand that we both had authoritarians and let’s not hide behind the words. Because we’ve had a clear, ruthless dictatorship in Belarus for many years. There was never dictatorship in Georgia, you never had Lukashenko. There was never dictatorship in Ukraine. They had a lot of corruption but not dictatorship. In Belarus, unfortunately with the help of Russia and frankly, with the help of Western money, the dictatorship is quite strong. It’s a personal regime of Lukashenko that uses most of the money to keep the repressive apparatus. And that is why the persecution and control of society is really strong there. That is why the protests in Belarus see only the bravest people are coming into the streets. And they face not only imprisonment; they face charges for long-term imprisonment and death. It is the most ruthless dictatorship on the territory of Europe.

You are Lukashenko’s biggest political rival and you even had to go to prison for your political activities. Had you won the 2010 elections what would Belarus would be like now?


You know, we were actually winning. That’s why I found myself in jail and with most of my team members, other candidates and other opposition figures. Had we won in 2010, Belarus would have been a different country. And the relationship would have been predictable. Because despite the support that Russia gives Lukashenko and despite his claims that he is the best friend of Russia, they cheat on each other. It’s not a normal relationship even in oil and gas. So there are no norms and rules of behavior even between Lukashenko and Putin.

Would Russia allow Belarus under your leadership or any other Belarusian’s leadership to leave its orbit?


Many people asked in the 2000s if Russia would allow Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia to join the EU and NATO. Before that there were questions whether Russia would allow Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia to join the EU and NATO. That’s not the question about Russia. We do understand the Russian factor but let’s think about our countries. You called me a pro-Western opposition. No, I am pro-Belarusian. And I’m not saying that I’ll think like Lukashenko. People did not decide to be in this close relationship with Russia and the people have expressed their willingness to have a better relationship with the EU.

There are people in Georgia who applaud Lukashenko’s wisdom and cunning, seeing him as a leader that managed to avoid direct confrontation with Russia, something that more democratic Georgia and Ukraine couldn’t do


Look what Lukashenko let Belarus become. It’s the most catastrophic economic situation since the collapse of the USSR. Inevitably, dictatorship leads to such things. As for how it could have been different, it couldn’t. I do understand that it is the hardest way for our independence, both for Georgia and Belarus. And for Ukrainian independence. And here we have to rely on actual understanding of our situation by the western countries. I do not see this understanding. Let’s be frank, the West is not very helpful for our independence. After Russia started the war in Ukraine, there was more awareness of what’s going on. More awareness of the dangers coming out of today’s Kremlin regime. Finally they will come to the conclusion that our independence – Georgia, Ukrainian, Balarus is indispensable for the security of the independence of Europe, EU and the West in general.

Vazha Tavberidze

Source: Georgia Today
Print
Other Stories
BSEC Summit – B Is for Blame Games
Now, first things first: Despite the headlines that some of the Georgian media gleefully rolled forth last week, it wasn’t Vice PM Kumsishvili’s idea to get up and stand beside the Russian PM
Swiss Lessons for Georgia – Neutrality, Diversity and Resource Management
Today, Switzerland is considered and perceived as a very successful country politically, economically, and socially.
Putin Appoints new ‘Ambassador’ to Occupied Tskhinvali
On May 23 Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a decree about appointment Marat Kulakhmetov as the new “Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to the Republic of South Ossetia.”
Trump’s letter to Margvelashvili: “Georgian independence and democracy remain an aspiration to the world”
US President Donald Trump congratulates Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili on the 25th anniversary of the Georgia-US diplomatic relations.
Nauru loses US financial support for recognizing Georgia’s breakaway regions’ independence
Nauru is no longer eligible for any US government financial support because it recognises two Georgian break-away regions as independent countries,
 Moscow Ex-Mayor’s Visit to Georgia Causes Controversy
Moscow’s former mayor Yuri Luzhkov’s visit in Georgia has caused an outcry among the Georgian population and politicians.
Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili meets Donald Trump at the White House
Yesterday, on May 8th, Prime Minister of Georgia Giorgi Kvirikashvili met with US President Donald Trump.
Donald Trump signs legislative act recognizing Abkhazia and Tskhinvali as Georgia’s regions occupied by Russia
US President Donald Trump has signed a legislative act, which recognizes Georgia’s breakaway territories - Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region - as regions occupied by Russia;
O’Hanlon Dishes out Bitter Pills for Georgia: The US Cannot Protect the Whole World
When Wall Street Journal writes something about Georgia, Georgian people (those who know what WSJ is) read it.
Romanian Ambassador on Navy, NATO and Russian Relations
Georgia is offering NATO the chance to deploy its navy in Poti port. If realized, this will dramatically change the power balance in the Black Sea basin
Innovative Reforms to Increase Education Quality in Georgia
From Aleksandre Jejelava’s Article published in The Economist’s World 2017 Georgian edition
Georgia-EU visa-free travel takes effect
Visa-free travel for Georgian citizens with the EU has already taken effect.
"What else should be done by Georgia to get NATO membership?"
Last week, the Foreign Minister of Hungary, Péter Szijjártó, visited Georgia to bolster the bilateral relations between the two countries
Tbilisi-Based Dutch Professor on Dutch Elections, Erdogan, Putin and Saakashvili
On March 15, parliamentary elections were held in The Netherlands. Despite most polls predicting a victory for “Dutch Trump” Geert Wilders,
First photo of Justice Minister's newborn child
The Justice Minister of Georgia gave birth to a baby girl on March 18 and her first photo has already been published on the official page of Gagua Clinic.
Georgia’s Justice Minister off for a maternity leave
Georgian Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani is on a maternity leave and for the next two months, her duties will be carried out by her First Deputy, Alexander Baramidze.
James Appathurai comments on the so-called elections in Abkhazia, Georgia
The Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia James Appathurai commented on the so-called elections taken place in Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia
David Kramer: Georgia Has a Strong Ally in the Pentagon
Last week, Tbilisi hosted some of the most high-ranking opinion-makers and experts in the Western world.
Austrian Ambassador on that Refugee Camp Idea
It didn’t really become a point of discussion in European media.
OSCE Concerned over Closure of Crossing Points with Breakaway Abkhazia
The Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) Chairmanship issued a statement over the closure of two crossing points along the administrative
Georgia’s citizens to enjoy visa-free travel with the EU from March 28 - EU Official Journal
The decision on providing Georgia with visa-free travel in the EU has been published in the European Union’s Official Journal.
"Nobody is above the law in Israel" - Israeli Amb. Speaks out about Visa-free regime controversy
The visa-free regime between Israel and Georgia was, and is, rightfully considered a huge step toward closer ties between two nations
Lincoln Mitchell on Lavrov, Macmaster and Georgia’s Future
Perhaps the most memorable thing that happened at the Munich International Defense Conference, that is, aside from the thinly veiled ultimatum
James Appathurai congratulates Georgia on signing visa-free-travel document
NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General James Appathurai has officially congratulated Georgia on the document, granting Georgian citizens the right of visa-free travel
 Let us walk together on the European path - MEP Mariya Gabriel
Today's signing ceremony is a historic day for all of us – both for the European and Georgian citizens, - MEP Mariya Gabriel told journalists.
GEL Exchange Rate
Convertor
25.06.2017
26.06.2017
USD
1
USD
2.4110
2.4110
EUR
1
EUR
2.6921
2.6921
GBP
1
GBP
3.0690
3.0690
RUB
100
RUB
4.0425
4.0425
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Other Stories
The US Ambassador to Georgia Ian Kelly congratulates Georgia on Independence Day.
The regulations on the introduction of visa-free travel for citizens of Georgia have been officially signed in Brussels.
The entire Georgia is involved in Secret Santa game, which means that people are sending gifts to each other secretly
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia is taking part in NATO Ministerial underway in Brussels, Belgium.
A special squad has been mobilized at the 48th polling station in Marneuli, Kvemo Kartli region.
Two politicians in Georgia have come to blows during a live TV debate ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections, Euronews reports.
The Georgian President and his wife are on a state visit to Israel. Giorgi Magvelashvili and the First Lady, together
Koba Subeliani, a member of the National Movement party and the parliamentary minority
According to Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili, the Georgian side will take part in the UN peacekeeping mission.
Asked about whether Georgia and Russia are moving towards a repeat of the war in 2008
GEL Exchange
USD
1
USD
2.4110
EUR
1
EUR
2.6921
GBP
1
GBP
3.0690
RUB
100
RUB
4.0425