Aliaksandr Milinkevich: The opposition alone is not able to free political prisoners

Is it worth to enter into agreements with the dictator, even if it may help to release political prisoners? We spoke with Aliaksandr Milinkevich, leader of the Movement For Freedom, and a candidate for president in 2006 election. We have learned whether the EU sanctions will help in the release of political prisoners and how important it is for the opposition to unite to achieve a common goal.

According to the politician, it is important to stop suspect and accuse each other of betrayal and serving regime. Aliaksandr Milinkevich sets as example Belarusian human rights defenders who are united, and cooperate for common good. Mr. Milinkevich believes that the Belarusian politicians should learn this. Can the sanctions imposed by the European Union against the regime help to release the political prisoners? And what is the attitude of European politicians to the situation of political prisoners in Belarus?

Aliaksandr Milinkevich: The European Union remembers about political prisoners, the European Parliament adopts resolutions concerning the issue. But the fact is that Europe has no power to release political prisoners and neither José Manuel Barroso, or the European Parliament’s head Martin Schulz can do that. It is Lukashenko who can release them and he must be interested in doing so. It is cynical, isn’t it? People are behind bars for nothing, and we’re talking about Lukashenko. But if we want to release them, it means that Europe should have a greater impact on the situation in Belarus.

I do not agree with the fact that in 2008-2009 during the dialogue with the European Union, the sanctions have contributed to the release of political prisoners. It’s totally wrong. Do you remember a visit of Javier Solana, and his one to one conversation with Lukashenko? All I know is that the politician said to Lukashenko: Europe is interested in the modernization of Belarus, but you must release political prisoners. After this long conversation, the journalists asked Solana whether he had imposed any conditions on Lukashenko. The European official said only that they were talking about the future. He could have said that he had done everything possible to frighten Lukashenko, but his main task was to release political prisoners. And indeed, all eight prisoners were released. Javier Solana did not use worst-case scenarios, as an experienced politician he knows that the dialogue with dictators should be maintained, since from this depends the fate of people.

I think that in order to release political prisoners, there should be used methods of secret diplomacy and certain agreements because, unfortunately, the opposition is not able to free political prisoners. We sympathize with political prisoners, help them, but we cannot release them. That’s why it needs to be done so that Lukashenko was not interested in keeping them behind bars. What steps do you think need to be taken to release political prisoners? And who should be engaged in the release of these people – politicians and human rights activists, the society or the EU?

People need to understand that there are different ways to release political prisoners, therefore all members of the democratic community in Belarus should work together. There is needed hard, moral attitude of politicians, human rights defenders and Europe. In Belarus we tend to say that there are no European mechanisms, or if they exist they are poor. That’s true, but it is very important that Europe would engage in situation in Belarus. Changes are not possible if only one mechanism works. We all have to work on it, we need to demonstrate solidarity, everything has to be coordinated. It is not known who will release political prisoners, but the most important thing is their actual release. And I believe they will be freed.



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Other political prisoners