Friday

5th Mar 2021

Interview

What do ordinary Belarusians want from the EU?

  • 'Without Russia's support ... Belarusian people would have gotten rid of him already', one taxi driver said (Photo: Natalia Rak/Flickr)

There is a wealth of expert commentary on what the EU should be doing to help end the Belarus crisis in a peaceful way.

Diplomats have also held dozens of meetings in the EU Council to discuss tactics since the rigged elections on 9 August prompted mass protests.

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Should Europe blacklist president Alexander Lukashenko and hundreds of his cronies the way it did in 2011, or would that feed his propaganda on outside interference?

Should it impose economic sanctions to starve the regime of money, or would that push Belarus into Russian vassaldom?

There are no easy answers.

But EUobserver also reached out to ordinary Belarusians to see what they think.

The four people who responded asked to remain anonymous due to fears for their safety.

"I think not only Lukashenko, but absolutely all security officials and managers should fall under sanctions because they have behaved so inappropriately," one 25-year old woman, who is a housewife, told EUobserver.

The EU should also help to counter Russian disinformation, which has denigrated the peaceful nature and native authenticity of the pro-democracy protesters, she indicated.

"It hurts me that Russia is telling lies about us on TV, even if I personally don't care about it and I don't think it [Russian propaganda] will change anything," she said.

"Of course, it's a pity that no sanctions have been imposed on Lukashenko [yet]," a 31-year old Belarusian man and apps developer told this website.

"But this does not greatly affect the picture as a whole ... He [Lukashenko] was under these personal sanctions for most of his life, so I'm sure he has worked out schemes for how to live with that," he said.

"Our 'grandfather' doesn't care about sanctions," he added, using a popular nickname for the dictator.

"What we need is something more active. For example, let's declare him a wanted man using Interpol," the apps developer said, referring to the international police agency in France, which can issue so-called 'red notice' alerts for member countries to arrest and extradite criminals when they travel overseas.

"Sanctions would be an admission of his [Lukashenko's] outcast status - a symbolic act, which I support in general," a 35-year old Belarusian woman, who declined to give her profession, also told EUobserver.

"But this is a dead end if a person [Lukashenko] doesn't care what his neighbours think of him," she said.

"European solidarity is important to us, but perhaps there's some other way to influence the outcome of the situation, instead of just imitating previous actions," she added.

Meanwhile, a 28-year old Belarusian taxi driver had even less faith in EU blacklists.

"Sanctions will not change anything," he said.

And for him, the EU was missing the point by trying to exert pressure on the Belarusian regime, while doing nothing on Russia, on which Lukashenko depended both financially and in security terms.

"Europe needs to press on Russia," the taxi driver told EUobserver.

"With or without sanctions, they [Belarusian authorities] are ready to start shooting at us, just to stay in power, and Russia is helping them," he added.

"Without Russia's support for Lukashenko, Belarusian people would have gotten rid of him already," he said.

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