MBK: What is happening in Belarus, and why we consider it unacceptable

August 13, 2020
Near Embassy of Belarus in Moscow. Photo MBK media

Mikhail Khodorkovsky released a statement commenting on the recent events in Belarus:

What is happening in Belarus, and why we consider it unacceptable.

  • This country is ruled by a fixed authoritarian regime. This is bad, but it does happen
  • To appear legitimate, the regime holds fraudulent elections. This is also bad, but it does happen, still.

But let’s take a closer look at it:

  • Belarusian society has clearly demonstrated that they refuse to consider the current regime legitimate. As it turned out, 70-80% of votes in dozens of polling stations were cast ‘against’ [the regime], despite the fake official results.
  • Following the opposition’s calls for support, protestors arrived en masse in the afternoon in the polling stations, with independent exit polls confirming the regime’s electoral defeat
  • People peacefully have taken to the streets to defend their choice while the regime is using mercenaries with their utterly illegal methods of intimidation. This included mass beatings, firing at peaceful demonstrators, and torture in places of detention
  • Meanwhile, the winning candidate has been forced to renounce her election victory through intimidation and the fact that her husband is being held hostage
  • The West has not yet understood that what is happening in Belarus is totally outside the political norm and will have long-lasting consequences
  • Let’s not forget that this is happening in Europe, which means it sets the framework and the limitations of the European norms
  • This is happening today, rather than 20 or 30 years ago which means it is setting the precedent, the ‘new normal’ for the current generation
  • Both sides are elaborating their stand-off tactics; if a particular approach to replace the ‘eternal’ regime does not work, another one would emerge.
  • Historically speaking, we have only recently moved away from using force as a method of  resolving such conflicts in Europe and there is a risk they could come back [in fashion].

My generation remembers well the conflict in Yugoslavia, the Red Brigades, the IRA… To the today’s generation they appear barbaric. They are accustomed to a very different value of human life, but if there is no harsh reaction to what is happening in Belarus, then we risk returning back to a violent political norm, and this return will not be limited to just Belarus.

This is essentially why I believe that Luksahenko and his regime must become outcasts.

  • There should be no negotiations personally with Lukashenko. He is no head of state, he is a bandit.
  • There must be personal sanctions against those at the top of the security agencies in Belarus; those involved in illegal actions
  • Bank accounts and transport links should be blocked
  • Purchases and transportation of oil along the Belarussian route should be suspended

Trying to justify this situation with the fact that Russia and China will be ready to make significant economic sacrifices for the Belarusian regime is nonsense. Neither Putin, nor China will be ready to give up costs for the sake of Lukashenko.

If the EU fails to address this issue and again demonstrates a sense of helplessness, then decisions have to be made at national levels, country by country. The return of real dictatorships in Europe is an infection far worse than COVID. 

We shouldn’t give a damn if this will help Putin, this disunity. This is a tactical problem. We shouldn’t care about who’s coming after who. Those who support will appreciate that they have stood up for something that should not be acceptable in modern Europe.

Sorry I have to put it this way, but it should be less important for us to care what political norms exist in Asia and Africa. We must do everything we can not to allow such political norms to return back to Europe.