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Pavel Latushka: I see Lukashenko put on trial in Belarus

Your visit to Ukraine gave an impulse to the activation of Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. How do you assess the current dialogue between the Belarusian democratic forces and Ukraine?

Original article:

Today, the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations can be defined as a status of opportunities. It seems that at the moment we see a mutual interest in expanding communication.

Tactically, we now have a common enemy, which is already a strong reason for cooperation. Strategically, we are neighboring countries, whose very geographical position, due to the existence of Russia, leaves only 2 options for relations. It’s either friends or enemies. It is clear that as long as the regime of Lukashenko, the regime of the aggressor, the regime of Russia's satellite exists, it is impossible to talk about the friendship of our countries. But it is obvious that this situation does not correspond to the national interests of either Ukraine or Belarus, the interests of Belarusians and Ukrainians. And in my opinion, the concept of converting a Lublin triangle into a Lublin square corresponds to them. In which Belarus is a partner, ally and friend of Ukraine in the real meaning of the word.

The NAM experts in Ukraine
The NAM experts in Ukraine

Today, Ukraine is struggling with the aggression of Russia, which was supported by the Lukashenko regime. We are fighting against the regime of Lukashenko and the Russian occupier. And these are two goals that unite us. We also share a common understanding of the future - a future in the European Union and NATO.

Belarusians, like Ukrainians, who have already built a democratic society in advance, want to live in a democratic system of governance and development of relations in society.

We have an absolute understanding of the strategic interest in Ukraine's victory in this terrible war. But this is not only about politics, but first of all about the moral choice, as the fight against evil is the basis of the moral choice of the majority of Belarusians. And political strategy is already imposed on it, because the victory of Ukraine certainly opens a window of opportunities for us and creates preconditions for changes in Belarus. But it is important that we are not just in a state of expectation of this victory. Belarusians are also trying to contribute to Ukraine's victory, as it will be a victory for Belarusians as well. But it is clear that our contribution can be much greater, and it’s a challenge for us first of all.

Lukashenko mentioned you in the context of the case of the kidnapping of Ukrainian children. How quickly should he expect a warrant from the International Criminal Court?

Игорь Кизим
Игорь Кизим Фото: ТАСС

Our team of the National Anti-Crisis Management has submitted an appeal to the ICC Prosecutor's Office in The Hague in accordance with Article 15 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court on the facts of systematic commission of war crimes by Lukashenko and his associates on the illegal transfer of children from the occupied territories of Ukraine to the territory of Belarus. The second component of these war crimes is the re-education of Ukrainian children using the Russian and Belarusian regime propaganda machine with the narratives of the “Russian world".

Our primary goals are: first is to stop the crimes; second (and it is also the first) is to help Ukraine return the children to their homeland; and third is to bring the perpetrators to justice. After all, as long as there is no responsibility or a real threat of its use, it is difficult to count on the suppression of crimes.

Our lawyers presented a tremendous evidence base, which we have shared and will continue to share with the Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine and the ICC Prosecutor's Office. We know that criminal cases on the facts of illegal transfer of Ukrainian children to the territory of Belarus have been opened in both Ukraine and Lithuania, but the qualification of these crimes, both in terms of national and international legislation, is exclusively the competence of prosecutors. Thus, we are striking the first blow against the Lukashenko regime. The second blow is the submission in the near future, together with our Lithuanian partners, of a report on the facts of crimes against humanity. Prosecution for these crimes is also provided by the relevant norms of the Rome Statute of the ICC. For example, the forced deportation of Belarusians who were made to leave the territory of the country due to political and other persecution. This is another important element that should lead to international responsibility of Lukashenko personally and his accomplices. We will not stop on our way, we will do everything to put Lukashenko on trial in The Hague. But personally, as a politician, as a Belarusian, I believe that the best option would be a trial of Lukashenko on the territory of Belarus. A public, open one, so that the whole Belarusian society could see the face of this criminal with their own eyes, and Lukashenko will listen to the charges of Belarusian independent prosecutors on numerous facts of crimes committed by him and his associates.

Are Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus and the Wagnerites combined threats, or should each of them be considered separately?

They should be considered separately, but they are embedded in the system of threats created by the so-called Union State. It is under the cover of the Union State of Belarus and Russia that Lukashenko deploys nuclear weapons. It is under this cover that a regional grouping is being deployed. Wagner further complements these threats.

A special consideration should be given to the role of the so-called Union State, which was seen by Lukashenko as an instrument of his potential accession to power in the Kremlin. And he started to fulfill this dream since the 90s, starting with the Treaty on the Creation of the Community of Belarus and Russia in 1996, then the Treaty on the Union of Belarus and Russia in 1997 and, as a result, the Treaty on the Creation of the Union State of Belarus and Russia in 2000.

But today we can state that the Union State turned out to be a much more terrible thing than Lukashenko's sick fantasies. Essentially, the Union State is an instrument of Russia's absorption of Belarus, an instrument of the Russian imperial policy.

The absorption of Belarus through the Union State project is carried out by various methods: through ideological, informational, cultural, economic, political and other influences. But we single out military influence separately, despite the attempts of the Kremlin and Lukashenko to "sell" both to Belarusians and the world the Union State as an economic Union first of all. After all, it is now obvious that this "union" is a military one. And we strongly advise all those who do not understand this, who do not understand the essence of the Union State and its role in the preparation and conduct of the war against Ukraine, to get acquainted with the military doctrine of the Union State, which was actually updated on the eve of the war, on 4 November 2021.

Lukashenko stated that Belarus has a NW
Lukashenko stated that Belarus has a NW

Today it is already obvious that the creation of the Union State turned out to be a terrible tragedy for Ukraine, because without Belarus as a part of Russia's imperial project, the very expansion of its imperial policy would have been impossible.

But this is also a tragedy for Belarus, because under the auspices of the Union State, Belarusian independence is being liquidated before the eyes of the whole world. In many ways, today we can perceive Belarus as a Soviet-era Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic, which has its place in the UN, its flag and formal borders on the map. But it does exactly what Moscow needs. We must also understand that Lukashenko is not only a tool in Putin's hands, but also a motivated individual who supports both the war against Ukraine and the civilizational division into the so-called “Russian world” and the democratic world in Europe.

Lukashenko took advantage of the situation with Wagner, which unexpectedly gave him the opportunity to significantly increase his ratings and information presence in Russian society.

But this tactical victory is already turning into a strategic defeat for Lukashenko. At that time, Lukashenko made inflated promises to Prigozhin to place the Wagnerites on the territory of Belarus and ensure their stay. But Lukashenka lacks both sufficient financial resources and the Kremlin's political motivation to support this scenario.

Lukashenko and Putin are dictators. And dictator Putin will never apologize to Lukashenko, who tried to make his own PR on the Wagner story. That is why today tension between Lukashenko and Putin can be predicted, but in the future it means that Putin will make even more steps to subdue and control Lukashenko as much as possible, as he can become a relatively potential threat to his power in Russia and a person who will create a negative image of Putin in the eyes of Russians. Dictators do not forgive such media victories, and Putin will not forgive these actions of Lukashenko.

We, the Belarusians, need to understand that the priority for us is to develop our forces. And these are three important and priority forces.

The first one is the internal force: underground movement, activist efforts, even if today they are limited by the totalitarian system created by Lukashenko and mass repressions by the regime. But without motivation, without determination, without overcoming fear and willingness to take risks, this force cannot be built. And without internal strength it is impossible to count on changes in Belarus. Nobody will fight and liberate Belarus instead of Belarusians. But those who fight will be assisted. We see all this on the example of Ukraine and Ukrainians. Yes, the situations are different, even incomparable, but the same principle will work.

And here it is important to note that the ground for potential assistance actually exists. Even the very words in the latest OSCE resolution, which emphasize the violent-imperial and colonial character of the state of the Russian Federation, which, among other things, is expressed in the soft annexation of Belarus, should be regarded as a signal for the Belarusians, who are ready for an active struggle for independence. After all, if such a struggle starts, there will immediately appear clear legal grounds for its appropriate recognition and international legal status of its participants. Accordingly, the right to seek help from the Western countries will arise. And they will have the right to help us.

The second force is external: Belarusian volunteers, our heroes from Kalinouski's regiment and all Belarusian units, who are fighting for the restoration of territorial integrity of Ukraine, but dream and publicly speak about the desire to liberate Belarus. This is what motivates Belarusian society today. It poses a threat to the regime. And this force will also be very important at a critical moment for change in Belarus.

The third force is international pressure: starting from non-recognition of Lukashenko, recognition of democratic Belarus, use of international instruments of responsibility (arrest warrant for Lukashenko, criminal prosecution of criminals from his entourage and power structures, sanctions policy, harmonization of sanctions against Russia and Lukashenko's regime). An important point is international pressure on Russia's integration projects, starting with the Union State, creating the most toxic atmosphere around them.

All this works to destabilize those institutions of Lukashenko's regime, which currently continue to hold and strengthen him. And at some point it will work to split the so-called elites, some of whom will again, as in 2020, inevitably face a choice - Lukashenko (and Russia) or an independent European Belarus. This choice will not necessarily be moral for them, it may be mercantile, but it must arise. After all, it will greatly simplify the conditions of struggle for the first two forces.


Pavel Latushka,

Deputy Head of the United Transitional Cabinet,

Head of the National Anti-Crisis Management,


9 July 2023, Warsaw


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