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Window of opportunity in the strategy for Belarus


The head of NAM, Pavel Latushka, participated in the XXI Minsk Forum in Berlin. During the event, Pavel Latushka delivered a presentation:

I believe that everyone gathered here in Berlin shares a strong desire for the Minsk Forum, as its name suggests, to be held in Minsk. Today, our goal is to discuss the possibilities of returning the Minsk Forum to Minsk. This requires the will of the Belarusian people, but we also need the support of our partners.

Belarus has numerous partners and even allies; however, unfortunately, there are only a few active allies who are willing to collaboratively develop and implement a strategy for Belarus.

The only country that has a well-defined strategy and systematically carries it out is the Russian Federation. The objective of this strategy is to dismantle Belarus and eradicate the Belarusian ethnic group. The main tools employed for its execution are the Kremlin puppet Lukashenko and his regime, as well as the so-called Union State of Belarus and Russia.

Lukashenko is dismantling Belarusian-oriented forces, civil society, and the democratic segment of society, while Russian forces exploit the void created by the regime.

Should we reiterate these facts? Yes, we should. Not everyone here experiences the daily realities of the information space in which we, Belarusians, live. Over the past three years in Belarus, more than 60,000 citizens have been detained, and approximately 20 have lost their lives or perished in prisons. Presently, thousands of political prisoners languish in Belarusian penitentiaries, over 1,400 non-governmental organizations have been dissolved, and all opposition political parties and independent media have been liquidated.

Within Russia's strategy, the puppet Lukashenko undermines the Belarusian language and culture, banning both authors and works, including those of Belarusian literary classics. Monumental art glorifies Russian historical figures, rewriting the country's history and shifting away from the historical ties between the Belarusian people and the European space, towards complete subjugation to the Russian empire. Systematic actions are underway to obliterate Belarusian European presence within the country.

I pause here. We have warned our partners about this situation in both 2020 and 2021, and as a diplomat, I know that these records exist in your archives. Nevertheless, the responsibility ultimately lies with us.

I would like to express my appreciation for the adoption of the Bundestag resolution "For a Democratic Belarus in the European Family" by the German Bundestag on November 7, 2023. This document is of utmost importance, representing Germany's strategy towards Belarus. It sets an example for European parliaments, and I hope that our main partners will adopt similar documents.

I extend my gratitude to the deputies of the ruling coalition and, particularly, to Mr. Robin Wagener, the head of the Bundestag group on Belarus, who is present here today, as well as the German Foreign Ministry.

Based on this resolution, what can we achieve together?

We can establish a joint working group to outline specific steps. I apologize for my bureaucratic approach, but without such a framework, this document will remain nothing more than good intentions.

What tools can we utilize as part of this strategy?

1. Instrument of international criminal responsibility It is imperative to issue an arrest warrant against Alexander Lukashenko for committing a war crime, specifically the illegal transfer of Ukrainian children from temporarily occupied territories, similar to the action taken against Vladimir Putin. To this end, the People's Anti-Crisis Administration has prepared and submitted two parts of the Communication titled "On the illegal deportation or transfer of Ukrainian children from Russian-occupied territories to Belarus" to the ICC prosecutor in The Hague, in accordance with Article 15 of the Rome Statute.

Furthermore, in mid-November 2023, a report titled "Belarus' Cooperation with Russia in the Systematic Deportation of Ukrainian Children" was published by the Humanitarian Research Laboratory at the Yale School of Public Health. This report, from a reputable and authoritative organization, substantiates all the facts previously presented to the ICC.

Another crucial aspect is the report by the Justice Center for Law and Democracy Hub, supported by the NAM, which contains information about the Lukashenko regime's commission of mass crimes against humanity. It is essential to initiate the consideration of this case at the ICC.

Since May 2020, over 136,000 Belarusians, including women and minors, have become victims of crimes committed by the Lukashenko regime against humanity. These crimes include illegal imprisonment, torture, murder, rape, serious forms of sexual violence, violent disappearances, persecution, and deportation.

The Justice Report by The Hub provides a comprehensive legal analysis of these crimes and, most importantly, a detailed action plan for engaging relevant mechanisms of international criminal justice, such as the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, the establishment of a special international criminal tribunal for Belarus, and the application of universal jurisdiction.

Holding Lukashenko personally accountable for international criminal responsibility and issuing an arrest warrant against him will politically undermine Lukashenko and send a signal to his entire circle that it is possible and necessary to remove him. This represents a critical tool for implementing a strategy to divide the elites.

Lukashenko has remained in power for 30 years, during which numerous forced disappearances of political opponents, murders, violence, hijacking of a civilian aircraft, migration wars, and effective support for aggression against Ukraine have occurred. Lukashenko has evaded accountability. Without accountability, the motivation of Belarusians to fight for democracy will diminish. Democracy can prevail in Belarus only when accountability is established.

2. Elections in Belarus

Equally important is the non-recognition of the so-called parliamentary elections planned by Lukashenko for February 2024. Non-recognition should be implemented preemptively, even before the elections take place.

This step will send a clear signal to the system that "turning the page" in international relations is impossible until the system rids itself of the dictator and engages in dialogue with democratic forces in Belarus.

3. Sanctions

What needs to be done in this strategic direction?

Firstly, it is crucial to harmonize economic sanctions against Russia and Belarus for their military aggression against Ukraine, thereby closing any existing loopholes in the sanctions regime. However, it is important to maintain sanctions specifically targeting the potash industry. Additionally, exceptions to current sectoral sanctions should be eliminated.

To further strengthen the effectiveness of sanctions, the best course of action would be to completely halt the movement of goods across the border with Belarus, with the exception of essential commodities and medicines.

Secondly, sanctions should be imposed on the use of the US dollar in settlements with Belarus and on the importation of US banknotes into Belarus, following the example set by the European Union with the euro.

Thirdly, efforts should be made to identify and freeze the foreign assets belonging to Lukashenko's family and associates. This particular task would require the involvement of the American side. Increasing the economic cost of keeping Lukashenko in power should become a critical factor for the regime.

4. Tools for preserving the independence of Belarus and the Belarusian identity

At all levels, it is essential to officially condemn and adopt a firm stance against Russia's attempts to undermine Belarusian independence through the implementation of the "Union State" project. This project must be clearly defined as a scheme aimed at hybrid annexation of Belarus, posing a direct threat to its independence and sovereignty.

Furthermore, any agreements signed by the self-proclaimed and illegitimate "president" Alexander Lukashenko, as well as any agreements signed with illegitimate authorities, should not be recognized.

To preserve the Belarusian intellectual elite, the project of establishing a National Belarusian University abroad should be implemented. Additionally, the number and funding of grant programs aimed at preserving, supporting, and developing Belarusian national culture, education, and self-awareness should be increased.

5. Simultaneously with the aforementioned actions, there is a need to actively utilize and enhance counter-propaganda tools, independent Belarusian media, and provide new technological solutions for Belarusians to access accurate information within the country. Advertising budgets should be increased to promote the content of independent media and other organizations engaged in active information work and combating propaganda.

6. Political prisoners

A recent discussion in the Kyrgyz Republic highlighted the priority issue of political prisoners. To address this, I propose a specific measure: the participation of a pro-government delegation of Belarusian athletes in the Olympics in Paris should be contingent upon the release of political prisoners in Belarus. Furthermore, provisions should be made to enable the participation of free Belarusian athletes who oppose the regime. Implementing this approach requires nothing more than the will to act.

Of course, there is no guaranteed strategy that will work in all circumstances. However, without a strategy, nothing will work at all. Let us set a specific goal, select an appropriate joint strategy, and take the necessary practical steps. Let us utilize all these tools to strive for national harmony in Belarus, transforming the image of an independent, free, democratic, and European Belarus from a mere concept to a tangible reality.

Thank you for your attention. Long live Belarus!

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