On October 22, the first Conference of the Free Belarusians was held in the Polish city of Rzeszów, which brought together the participants from Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, as well as representatives of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. The meeting took place in the closed format. It was about the war in Ukraine, as well as the prospects for the liberation of Belarus.
“The War in Ukraine. Deoccupation of Belarus” – this name was chosen by the participants of the first Conference of the Free Belarusians. To make the conversation more frank, they spoke “behind the closed doors.” The Belarusian politician and public figure, dissident, writer Zenon Pozniak took part in the forum. He has been living in exile in the USA since 1996. Since 1991, Zenon Pozniak has been consistently telling the world about the threat of the Russian imperialism.
In his speech, Zenon Pozniak emphasized the repressions in Belarus, where they are currently persecuted for the Belarusian language, position, support for Ukraine, and even the performance of Ukrainian songs. So, they are trying to intimidate and terrorize people. In addition, the Russian propaganda began to work much more actively on the territory of Belarus, has a greater influence on Belarusians than Ukrainian propaganda – звучит на мой взгляд не очень, может лучше real news, and this should be changed, stressed Zenok Pozniak.
“Repressions against the Belarusians and all related to the Belarusian culture and desires, the occupation has been going on for 28 years. It’s a pity, the national basis of the nation has been destroyed, freedom has been eliminated. There was an occupation of Belarus by Russian troops, Lukashenko personally contributed to this occupation. The military occupation took place without resistance. This is a geopolitical catastrophe, a threat to neighboring countries. By sending troops into Belarus, Russia has created a bridgehead from which aggression can be carried out on the territory of Ukraine. On February 24, Russia attacked Ukraine from the territory of Belarus. The Kremlin is interested in involving Lukashenka’s regime into a war against Ukraine.
For Putin, this would be a step towards systemic war, an opportunity for manipulation. The main obstacle here is the anti-war mood of the Belarusians, the Belarusians do not understand why they should fight against the Ukrainians. This is perceived as wildness and complete absurdity.
The unwillingness of the Belarusians and the Belarusian army to fight against Ukraine is the main factor preventing Lukashenka from entering the war. Because he understands that if he gives in to Moscow’s pressure, the people’s anti-war resistance will arise and his power will come to an end. Russian agents and propaganda are trying to sow hatred among the Belarusians against the Ukrainians, to remove the danger for Lukashenka. The Lukashenka regime plays the role of the occupation administration,” Zenon Pozniak emphasized in his speech at the Conference.
The Belarusian opposition leader drew attention to the fact that the Ukrainians and Belarusians should unite and resist Russian influence.
The defeat of the common enemy, which is Russia, opens the possibility of liberating Belarus from the Russian army and Lukashenko’s criminal regime, the participants of the conference emphasized. Russian propaganda in Belarus became more powerful after the 2020 protests. The police regime also strengthened.
Yevhen Magda, director of the Institute of World Politics, the participant in the conference, believes that today the Ukrainians and Belarusians face a “journey of a thousand steps”.
“We have 1,084 km of common border, but we know very little about each other. The conference, in which one of the veterans of Belarusian politics, Zenon Pozniak, took part, demonstrated to the ordinary Ukrainians that the Belarusian opposition is not only Svitlana Tykhanovskaya and her “transitional cabinet”, it is not only Kalinovsky’s regiment.
The Belarusian opposition today is broader than we imagine. Therefore, we need to create a framework for relations with the Belarusian community, taking into account the situation that actually exists. And it is simple – many Belarusians become Belarusian citizens only after leaving the borders of their state. Because inside Belarus there is a very powerful police regime. It is simply dangerous to talk about sympathy for Ukraine there. For example, the Belarusian railway began to check the background of employees. There will be a lot of such things until the end of Lukashenka’s rule.
But at the same time, we must once and for all abandon the idea that Ukraine will bring democracy to Belarusian territory with an iron hand. This should be done by the Belarusians themselves. Russia’s military defeat can cause a situation in which Lukashenko’s regime can be weakened as much as possible, even with economic sanctions,” RFE/RL’s Yevhen Magda noted.
If Russia is trying to sow hatred of the Ukrainians among the Belarusians, then hatred of the Belarusians is also increasing among the Ukrainians, from whose territory Russia launches rockets at Ukrainian cities and villages, at civilians. killing them and destroying the infrastructure. Hatred and misunderstanding destroy bilateral relations, notes Yevhen Magda.
“In Ukraine, there is a narrow circle of those who understand the Belarusian issue, at least are interested in it. There are few people in Belarus who try to explore Ukraine. The Belarusians often say that their territory is occupied by Russia. But the direct participation of the Belarusian military in the invasion of Ukraine will set aside relations between ___ two nations for a long time,” says Yevhen Magda.
Belarusian volunteers, politicians, and experts were invited to the Conference of The Free Belarusians.
“It is important to start the process of uniting the free Belarusians not around some personality, but around an idea. The idea today is victory over the Russian Empire. Because as soon as the Russian empire, as it is, now exists, ceases in this form, we can begin the process and liberation of Belarus, begin democratic processes in Belarus itself. The Belarusians and Ukrainians share a long history. The Belarusians should remember this. Today, when rockets fly from Belarus, everyone knows it. Imperials came to Belarus. Today there are fights between the Belarusian and Russian military. Today we need to raise the issue of recognizing Belarus as an occupied territory,” says Oleksiy Frantzkevych, the head of the “Free Belarusians” Charitable Foundation, which organized the conference in Poland.
Evgeny Magda believes that today the Ukrainians can have a dialogue with the Belarusians living abroad. They, in turn, communicate with relatives from Belarus and can tell them about the intentions of Russia, which occupied Belarus and is destroying Ukraine. The Belarusians in Belarus need to be told that Russia is only using the territory for its own purposes.
The participants of the event agreed to create a coordinating council of the free Belarusians. A resolution was also adopted, which states, in particular:
The Russian attack on Ukraine, as well as the Russian occupation of Belarus and the joint actions of the Lukashenko regime should be perceived as a general aggression of Russia against the Belarusian and Ukrainian people_. The Ukrainians and Belarusians must understand and resist the disinformation war of Russian propaganda on television and on the Internet, aimed at inciting distrust and hatred between the Belarusian and Ukrainian people_. Russian disinformation must be rejected. The Belarusian National Democratic Community points out that the will, freedom, emancipation from the antipopular Lukashenko regime and the liberation of Belarus require a nationwide struggle against the Russian aggressor, which should be manifested in the national consolidation of the Belarusians, in the creation and activity of the Belarusian liberation underground, in all-round assistance to the Ukrainians in the fight against the Russian aggressor. There should be help with the personal participation of the Belarusian volunteers in the interests of Ukraine on the front of the war against the Russian invaders. To support ideologically, politically, informationally, materially and personnelly the volunteer fighters in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Meetings of the Belarusian, Ukrainian, Polish, and Lithuanian experts, analysts, politicians, and activists will be held regularly and joint actions will be developed at them.
Kyiv is in no hurry to sever diplomatic ties with Belarus. The reason, according to the political scientist Yevhen Magda, may be that the citizens of Ukraine return to their homeland through Belarus, the exchange of prisoners also takes place on the Belarusian territory. Since the beginning of the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine, more than 25,000 Ukrainian citizens have left for Belarus. However, today, the expert emphasizes, Ukraine lacks a strategy not only for Belarus, but for all neighboring countries.
According to the materials of “Radio Liberty”