20 years under Putin: a timeline

For over 100 days mass protests against the regime of Alexander Lukashenko have been shaking Belarus. Despite rigged and lost elections, harsh criticisms and sanctions of the West, Lukashenko continues to forcefully retain power. IMR reprints this article by Natalia Radina, editor-in-chief of Charter97.org, an independent outlet dedicated to Belarus, in which she explains why imposing harsher sanctions on the Lukashenko regime will save Belarusian civil society that fights bravely for freedom and against tyranny.


August 16, 2020: protesters in Minsk hold the banner that read: fair elections, tribunal, freedom for political prisoners. Photo: Homoatrox / Wikimedia Commons.


Belarus as the world’s heart

I may have enough words, but I certainly won't have enough energy to depict the events happening in Belarus in recent months—they are so dreadful. Although it is possible to become bereft of words looking at the sufferings to which the Belarusians are subjected today. Reading the chronicle of repression in Belarus evokes the memories of the film “Come and See” by Elem Klimau and Ales Adamovich about the horrors of World War II.

However, today, the year is not 1937 or 1941. It is 2020. Belarus is an independent country in the center of Europe, and its geopolitical location is extremely important. The world must and can stop this genocide as soon as possible.

As one of the fathers of geopolitics, British geographer Halford Mackinder, said, “whoever controls Eastern Europe... controls the whole world.” In the 21st century, his words may be reinterpreted as follows: “If democracy and freedom win in Belarus and Ukraine, they will win all over the world.”

We have studied the Lukashenko regime very well over these 26 years. We know exactly what it is afraid of. This regime is afraid of the economic sanctions.

We have seen its fear in concrete examples. In 2008, political prisoners, including presidential candidates, were released after the U.S. imposed sanctions against Belneftekhim, the state enterprise supplying oil products to the West. In 2012, a number of political prisoners were freed because of the demarche of EU ambassadors who had left Belarus, and the refusal of European banks to grant loans to the Lukashenko regime. Similarly, in 2015, presidential candidate Mikalai Statkevich and other prisoners of conscience were released after five years in prison as a result of sanctions.

I personally know how the regime fears sanctions. In 2011, I was released from the KGB detention facility under the written pledge not to leave the country only because the EU had announced its intention (!) to impose economic sanctions. When, being in Belarus under the surveillance of the police and special services, I was writing articles calling on the West to impose sanctions against the dictatorship, they immediately started coming down on me, using spontaneous arrests, intimidation, blackmail, threats to stop writing about economic sanctions, otherwise I would immediately be detained again.

Therefore, I know from my own experience: this regime is afraid of only one thing—economic restrictions. This is what will surely kill this dragon and free Belarus from fascism.

I agree with the demand to impose the following sanctions against Lukashenko’s regime for crimes against humanity:

  • to disconnect the Lukashenko regime from SWIFT, the international interbank system;
  • to freeze foreign accounts of Belarusian state enterprises;
  • to stop purchasing oil products produced in Belarus;
  • to impose an embargo on any deals with companies that support the Lukashenko regime;
  • to declare Lukashenko’s law enforcement agencies terrorist organizations;
  • to authorize the arrest of those responsible for the regime’s crimes by international and national courts;
  • to expel all ambassadors of the Lukashenko regime as accomplices to the crimes.

I call on all people of the world, politicians, human rights defenders, journalists to help us impose these measures against the dictatorship. By doing so, you will save the lives of certain people. You will save the Belarusian nation and the whole country.

The tagline of my favorite film “Schindler’s List” is a quote from Talmud: “He who saves one life saves the whole world.” I want to say today: “By saving the Belarusians, you save not only a nation and a country, you save the whole world.” For unarmed and defenseless Belarusians are shedding blood for freedom from slavery and tyranny today. The outcome of the battle will have consequences for all mankind.


This article was originally published at Charter97.org.