Transition Cabinet sums up six months of work

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya /
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya /

The Belarusian Democrats are in full swing. No sooner had Zianon Pazniak returned from Bakhmut and announced the creation of the Rada Biaspekі (Security Council), than the Transition Cabinet decided to draw attention to itself. And there is a reason: they did not reach the front, but they worked for half a year.

It would have been a real holiday of transparency, if not for the "security issues", which explained a lot at both conferences.

For example, recently again Azarau could not say anything about the "Peramoha" plan -- "for security reasons". However, for security reasons, the correspondent of Euroradio had to remain anonymous during the press conference and pass the questions through the moderator.

Last time the speakers came to Poland and met in the Museum of Free Belarus. This time they limited themselves to the Zoom session. Probably, they also did it for "security reasons"? After all, Pazniak is in Warsaw now. 

Why didn't Pazniak and Tsikhanouskaya talk in the summer of 2020?

Zianon Pazniak may not have been physically present at the Cabinet's press conference, but of course everyone had a picture in front of their eyes: Zianon was in Bakhmut. And the representatives of the Cabinet are in Zoom. What's going on?

Билет в Украину, репрессии, новый паспорт. Кабинет подвёл итоги за полгода
Pazniak, Shchyhelski and Usau in Bakhmut / Photo of the press service of the Kalinousky regiment

It turns out that Tsikhanouskaya can not simply "buy a ticket to Kyiv".

"I can't go there. In order to enter the territory of another state, I need an official invitation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And currently the Ukrainian side is not ready to give us such an invitation".

I think that Zianon Pazniak and his supporters don't need such an invitation. I need it because I have the status of an official guest of Lithuania. And for the Lithuanian side to arrange my visit to any country - not only to Ukraine - they require communication at the level of the Foreign Ministry.

Tsikhanouskaya has confirmed that if she receives such an invitation, she will certainly come to Kyiv to talk with the representatives of Kalinouski regiment. And what about Pazniak? At the press conference on the creation of the Security Council, he reluctantly but nevertheless hinted that he could try to arrange communication.

Why didn't it work before? The other day, Belarusian journalist and politician Siarhey Navumchyk tried to reconstruct the chronology of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Zianon Paznyak's communication in 2020.

"In short, he writes about three attempts to get in contact"

According to Navumchyk's publication, in the summer of 2020, Paznyak tried to contact Tsikhanouskaya three times. He asked for Tsikhanouskaya's number. He gave her the number of his own New York phone with the Executive Secretary of the CPSU-BPF - together with the book "The National Constitution of the People's Republic". A group of Pazniak's representatives also came to Tsikhanouskaya's headquarters and asked for a meeting -- but were not granted one.

Each time, there was someone between Pazniak and the leader of the Belarusian democratic forces. Tsikhanouskaya promised to find out who it was.

"I do not remember such attempts in 2020, I was very unavailable. My phone number, my contact was known to almost no one".

I was surprised that he wanted to meet with me. I'll try to talk to people who were around me in the 2020. I assume that according to [Zianon Pazniak] this was even before I was a presidential candidate? But at this point I can't say anything more about that statement.

The tenth package

Let us move on from perennial issues to urgent ones. Poland recently closed the Berestovitsa border crossing and has not ruled out closing others. Tsikhanouskaya said she agrees with closing checkpoints for cargo, but not for people. And she gave the floor to Pavel Latushka, who said the same thing, but in a more uncompromising way.

The events of that night had made Latushka even more determined. "Rabochy Ruch" and the Belarusian Investigative Center found out that the products of Hrodna Azot are entering the territory of Lithuania despite the sanctions.

Билет в Украину, репрессии, новый паспорт. Кабинет подвёл итоги за полгода
Pavel Latushka in the studio of Euroradio / Euroradio

"That's why Brussels must adopt the tenth package of sanctions, the draft of which includes the elimination of the maximum number of "exemptions" [holes - Euroradio], creating opportunities for bypassing sanctions against Russia through the territory of Belarus.

By increasing pressure on the regime, we put Lukashenka in a very tough framework and conditions. If this succeeds, he will be on his knees and ready to meet the requirements we have set for him -- first of all, the release of political prisoners".

Journalists asked whether we should wait for the closure of other checkpoints on the Latvian and Lithuanian part of the Belarusian border. Latushka advised to address this issue to Lithuania and Latvia. But first he made a cryptic suggestion:

"We call on the government of Lithuania, the EU countries, the U.S., all democratic governments, to support this decision of Poland and to increase the pressure on the Lukashenka regime". 

"We are not the ones with the keys to the prisons"

Will this help to free political prisoners? Are there any new ideas in this direction?

Volha Harbunova, representative of the Cabinet on Social Affairs, human rights activist and former political prisoner, admitted that she would like to answer this question: "Yes, I know what to do. And this is the same question that Volha and her fellow prisoners asked in the pre-trial detention center".

"Unfortunately, in the negotiation process, it is not the representatives of the Demforces who are underhanded. Various representatives of Demforces are constantly and publicly saying that they are ready to negotiate. But there must be certain conditions and signals from the representatives of the regime. More and more often we hear this demand from the relatives of political prisoners. But we can't pass the responsibility to each other; we are not the ones who have the keys to the prisons".

One of the steps could be the release of a number of political prisoners who should not be in the colonies now on humanitarian grounds. These are people with disabilities, people of retirement age, minors, parents with many children. And the creation of such a commission [a commission to consider appeals from citizens abroad - Euroradio] is definitely not a step that Belarusian society will read as a step forward," Harbunova said.

Pavel Latushka was obviously worried about whether all this sounded uncompromising enough, and just in case, he added:

"Here's our statement from yesterday. I'll read it. We consider it possible to start any negotiation processes with the Lukashenka regime only after the complete cessation of repressions and the release of political prisoners on the humanitarian list as a first step on the part of the regime." 

"Will something be done or not? That is unknown. But we will try"

Azarau said Bypol is now working with the Ukrainians to keep Lukashenka out of the ground operation. But he didn't give details because "this information is secret, not for Tsertsel, only for us.

"We are working and will continue to work. Will something be done or not? We don't know. But we will do our best so that Belarus does not enter the war".

Билет в Украину, репрессии, новый паспорт. Кабинет подвёл итоги за полгода
Aliaksandr Azarau / Euroradio

Zerkalo journalist once again asked Azarau to say at least something about the "Peramoha" plan, to name "at least some results of work in this direction, in general".

"Well, the plan was originally designed for other conditions, when there was no war in Ukraine, and no one assumed that it would happen. So now we are in the process of reformatting the plan.

Many people say: why didn't you launch it? The plan is not launched for certain dates, it can only be launched for certain events. When Belarusians are ready to do something in the country. Not like now -- to sit at home and be afraid.

If we launch the plan now, people will look out of the window and think: let others go, I will see later. And we have to take advantage of the situation when people want to go back to the streets to protest and start asking for some kind of plan. Give us orders, instructions on what to do. There was no such thing in August: people just walked aimlessly from one end of the street to the other. So we have to be ready for this moment, we are waiting for this moment.

But right now <...> to start a plan is suicide. So we are waiting for a certain opportune moment.

The Euroradio correspondent suggested that Azarau and Belarusians inside the country might feel differently about that moment. And she asked which scenario Bypol considers "desirable" or "favorable".

"We should not call the scenarios "desirable" or "undesirable". Because they can also be bloody. "To say that they are "desirable" would not be good," Azarau added. "Well, for example, now we think that if Lukashenka starts a military operation on land, sends troops to Ukraine, it could shake the Belarusian society. This is the next thing that could happen. Then we'll see if Belarusian society will wake up or not".

The Euroradio correspondent is totally confused: is Azarau waiting for Lukashenka to enter the war or is he working to "not enter" it? We sent a clarifying question, but unfortunately there was no time to get an answer during the press conference.

Passport of a "good Belarusian"

Valery Kavaleuski, a representative of the Cabinet of Ministers, assured us that the project of such a document is supported by the European Commission.

"The work on the passport started a long time ago and it was one of the most popular questions to the office of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. The issue is acute. A group of heraldry specialists, historians and designers was formed. We received support from private Belarusian donors. All the funds for this initiative were purely Belarusian.

The design of the document is ready. It meets the requirements of ICAO, i.e. it can be used not only to confirm Belarusian citizenship, but also for travel.

Theoretically, this document can be accepted by the official authorities of certain countries. The project is promising, assured Kavaleuski. But he can't reveal "all the details" yet. Not "for security reasons". It is simply not clear whether the initiative will be supported by the national states of the European Union. The fate of the project will depend on their stance.

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