2021.09.08

‘Elections’ in Russia – what does Putin fear most?

From September 17-19, the Russian Duma ‘elections’ will be held. The term ‘elections’ are placed in quotation marks because, of course, there will be no elections of the sort we in Lithuania and across the West are used to. Putin is a good student of Lukashenko – the latter ‘stole’ the elections already after they were held, and it turned out that Lukashenko lost to Tsikhanouskaya.

Putin is ‘stealing’ the election results ahead of time. So opposition candidates who could run in the Duma elections have either been imprisoned like Navalny and many of his comrades, or were simply refused registration, being described as ‘foreign agents’ or ‘extremists.’ Opposition news media and civil organisations are also persecuted, with the Kremlin exerting vast efforts to create an atmosphere of fear and government brutality in Russia. Pre-emptively signalling that the government will not tolerate any post-election protests.

It is clear that after last year’s elections in Belarus, Putin is rather frightened of something of a similar nature occurring in Russia as well. And so, the Kremlin is insuring and reinsuring itself as candidate lists in single-mandate electoral districts have been stripped of any potential competition, with even some communist candidates being refused registration. Voting will be held over three days so that no observers can control the fairness of the voting, while Navalny’s ‘wise voting’ initiative is fought to the point that courts even banned the two words from being used over the internet. With elections being held under such conditions of persecution, they cannot be recognised as legitimate by the international community, and so they are less critical in terms of the final ‘results’ that the Kremlin is now painting, and more in terms of what long term processes we will see sparked by these elections.

We can guess that Putin is interested less in the Duma’s composition and more in having the sort of majority the Kremlin needs alongside the typically loyal Zyuganov Communists and Zhirinovskyists. Putin is likely far more interested in what signal these elections will send the Russian elites and common citizens, as well as the world at large, prior to the looming Russian presidential elections in 2024, and it could be that already these Duma elections will send a sufficiently convincing signal to Putin himself that it’s no longer worth for him to run for office in 2024. It is also worth dedicating a little more attention to the indications and phenomena that would show already in these Duma elections that change is inevitable in Russia.

How do we evaluate view the Duma election results?

It is already clear that Putin is prepared to declare the victory of his United Russia party in the Duma elections, and massive efforts are being exerted to this end so that the party’s candidates do not face stiff competition. It is worth remembering that since 2016, the Russian Duma, which has 450 members, has been elected based on a mixed electoral system, which is like Lithuania’s. Half of the Duma’s 225 members is elected based on party lists, and the other half are in single-mandate electoral districts.

It is in single-mandate districts that Putin expects his greatest wins – some sociologists have calculated that based on current circumstances where the competition is eliminated, Putin’s candidates could win 180 single-mandate districts, which is 80% of the seats in this bracket. However, voting for party lists could prove far more painful to Putin, and this is where particular attention is due as based on current publicly released surveys, Putin’s United Russia has only 30 per cent support in surveys. This is reported by sociological campaigns that are intimidated by the Kremlin, and one could guess that, the support could be even lower, not even reaching 30 per cent. Putin’s United Russia party, one which has all the Kremlin’s resources in hand, would see obtaining 30 per cent of the vote in these elections as being a painful loss. It is necessary to remember that this party took 55 per cent of the vote in the 2016 Duma elections, 59.2 per cent in 2011, and 64.3 per cent in 2007. So let us be ready to objectively evaluate even the results of these elections, which Putin has already ‘stolen’ – even if the Kremlin were to trumpet that Putin won the Duma elections and that he has a majority, we should be most interested in the results of party-list voting, which are far more challenging to fabricate. If Putin’s party only wins 30 per cent of the vote, it will be a signal that Putin suffered a significant loss in these Duma elections.

What else does Putin fear?

It is evident that Putin is fearful of the coming Duma elections, and even these elections may be an unambiguous sign to him that the real, rather than falsified, support for the Kremlin’s policies is quite low not even reaching a third of voters and plummeting at a catastrophic pace. Two key factors will eventually play an increasingly important role and make both the Kremlin and Russian elites increasingly comprehend the necessity of inevitable change. Such changes are something that Putin’s kleptocratic regime seeks to avoid at all costs because its primary goal is to retain the wealth it has appropriated; however, there are changes which even the Kremlin cannot halt. The first of the two factors is the perspective of the new, younger generation. There is little need for explanation, you only need to take a look at the sociological study results released by the Levada Centre this year, which you can find here. Based on this study, we can see a clear trend that voters under 40 will not vote for Putin in the presidential elections. Once again, we should remember that the Levada Centre is one of the few whose existence the Kremlin still permits, but even its results indicate clear trends – the Russian public is becoming tired of Putin. The younger generation no longer associates Putin with their hopes for a better life, which happened to Lukashenko. Putin understands and fears this – the youth are on Navalny’s side, and so Putin can only pander to them and kindly agree with a student who dares correct the mistakes of Putin, the historian. But generations change, and Putin cannot halt this. This is what frightens him. The second factor, which Putin is afraid of is the European Union’s Green Deal. Without going into details (that I have written on previously), it is worth noting that the EU’s commitment to implementing the Green Deal will have massive geopolitical repercussions for Russia first and foremost over the coming 15-20 years. If the Green Deal is implemented as planned after 2035, gas imports from Russia to the EU will fall by around 70 per cent, and all Russian state finances are currently based on revenue from gas and oil sales to Europe. Implementing the Green Deal in the European Union will mean that Russia will inevitably have to transform its entire economic structure, which will eventually lead to fundamental changes in Russia’s internal political architecture. Where such changes will lead for Russia is hard to predict, but we already perceive that across the European continent’s Eastern side, we see the same historical trend – the democratic and Western European way of life is gradually gaining more ground in the East. It all started with the Baltic States, then with Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova following. Belarus is now beginning to move in the same direction, and there are no reasons that suggest that Russia won’t do the same. We will observe the first two indicators at the Duma ‘elections’ in two weeks, and then come to the inevitable two factors – a new and younger generation of Russian citizens and the European Green Deal.

These are what Putin fears the most.

2021.09.02

Andrius Kubilius: European Parliament believes in Russia’s democratic future

The European Parliament published a report on the direction of EU-Russia political relations, which was approved by its Foreign Affairs Committee and submitted by the rapporteur on Russia Andrius Kubilius (EPP, Lithuania). The report will be voted and discussed in the European Parliament’s forthcoming plenary session on 14 September 2021.

After the vote in the Foreign Affairs Committee MEP Andrius Kubilius noted, that the European Parliament is convinced Russia can have a democratic future.

“Russia can be a democracy. The EU has to work out a comprehensive set of principles, a strategy, based on the fundamental values the EU is promoting. Defending ‘Democracy First’ in EU relations with Russia is our first task. The EU and its institutions have to work on the assumption that change is possible in Russia. It also needs more courage in taking a strong stance vis-a-vis the Kremlin regime when it comes to defending human rights; this is what strategic engagement with the Russian people is all about. It is about ending domestic repression, returning the choice to the people, and freeing all political prisoners”, said Andrius Kubilius.

2020.09.28

Joint Letter to the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan

We, the co-chairs of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, have received worrisome reports on the wide-scale attacks in Nagorno-Karabakh area on the morning of 27 September 2020. These attacks regretfully resulted in first numerous losses of innocent lives of the ordinary people.

This situation cannot continue and we in the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly are convinced we should do everything in our power to contribute in stopping any further escalation of violence.

It is our utmost belief that any disagreement between the parties must be resolved by means of dialogue and not by using any kind of a military force.

In this context, let us propose the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly and its structures as a platform for members of parliaments from conflicting parties to meet in the coming days and discuss the next steps to stop the violence and unnecessary losses of human lives.

Our offices are at your disposal in this difficult moment.

We are looking forward hearing from you.

Sincerely Yours,

 

Andrius KUBILIUS

Ivan KRULKO

2020.09.23

Statement to the People of Belarus

By Andrius Kubilius, MEP, Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly

On 9 August 2020, Mr Lukashenko falsified and stole the elections from the People of Belarus. He was not re-elected. There was an overwhelming evidence that an absolute majority of the People have chosen opposition leader Ms Svetlana Tikhanovska as their President. Mr Lukashenko, by massively repressing peaceful protesters and torturing civil society activists, was stealing this victory from the People of Belarus.

According to the international law, there is no legitimate president since the elections and their results were not recognised, and the new presidential elections in Belarus have to be organised immediately, as the term in office of the current President ends on 5 November 2020.

Today’s attempt of Mr Lukashenko to falsify secretly and shamefully his inauguration and to make himself the President again after he lost elections, is an attempt to grab and usurp the power by using military and police force. It is nothing else, as an establishment of a military junta in Belarus. All military juntas find the same end.

The military and law enforcement structures in Belarus now have to make a crucial choice – either to be with a military junta of a disillusioned Mr Lukashenko, or to remain with the People of Belarus they took an oath to defend. This is a choice for men and women working in military and police structures who have a hope to live in a free and democratic Belarus, which Mr Lukashenko is attempting to steal from them.

The actions of law enforcement authorities, if they will choose to continue pogroms of innocent people, will bear direct consequences according to the international law. The EU will stand together in solidarity with those defending the Belarusian people and their right for a democratic choice of their President. The actions of the military junta will have legal consequences. The EU will have no relations whatsoever with a military junta in Belarus and will not recognise any of its actions.

2020.09.15

A. Kubilius: Alexander Lukashenko’s signatures on Vladimir Putin’s documents may become verdict for himself

Alexander Lukashenko is seeking to hold the post of Belarusian leader for yet another term in office at any cost. There seems to be a rush to confirm certain documents with his legal signature. According to MEP Andrius KUBILIUS (EPP, LT), it is realistic that the signature that may be put by Lukashenko in the near future will be a verdict for himself, as he will become too toxic to Vladimir Putin and will need to be replaced. Russia is now the only open supporter of Lukashenko.

This can be seen from the meetings of ministers of foreign affairs and defence last week as well as the arrival of the Russian prime minister to meet Lukashenko in Minsk. On Monday, Lukashenko himself is going to Sochi, where Putin is waiting for him. Will this meeting determine the fate of Belarus? This is the question for Brussels-based KUBILIUS, who has recently become a standing rapporteur on Russia. “Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya has made it clear that Lukashenko, having lost the elections, has neither political nor moral mandate to trade Belarus’ sovereignty which belongs to the people, and any of his signatures or agreements will not be recognised as legitimate after the final victory of democracy in Belarus wins. On Tuesday or Wednesday next week, there will be important debates in the European Parliament (EP) on Belarus, and I think that the EP will also say that such agreements have no power and will not be recognised,” Lrt.lt quotes KUBILIUS.

2020.09.10

R. Juknevičienė becomes Deputy Coordinator of delegated members of largest EP group in special committee on fighting against disinformation

MEP Rasa Juknevičienė has been selected to the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Foreign Interference in all Democratic Processes in the EU, including Disinformation, as the Deputy Coordinator of the delegated members of the EPP group. Coordinators from the political groups not only coordinate the work of the members of the committee but also formulate key provisions in this area. “We will deal with sensitive issues in the committee, so we will need a lot of consultations not only with each other but also with other political groups,” said JUKNEVIČIENĖ. This special committee is tasked with examining in depth whether foreign interference may have violated or circumvented the essential rules for democratic elections. The EPP strongly supports the EU’s efforts to combat disinformation. The term of office of the special committee is twelve months. Later, it can be extended. The committee consists of 33 MEPs.

2020.09.07

MEP Juknevičienė calls for a halt to the Nord Stream II project, which will finance Putin’s criminal regime

Member of the European Parliament Rasa Juknevičienė addressed the German Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection Christine Lambrecht at a Thursday European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) meeting over the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and declared that “this question must receive adequate attention from the European Union because failing to receive a clear and firm response, the Kremlin will not stop.”

According to the MEP, A. Navalny’s poisoning forces us to recall the politically motivated murders ordered by the Russian regime, including those perpetrated within European Union member states. R. Juknevičienė also urged the European Union together with the United States and the United Kingdom to perform an internal investigation on A. Navalny’s poisoning.

“The EU must strengthen the biometric control of the Schengen visa system, create a mechanism of Magnitsky-style sanctions and begin implementing it for Kremlin criminals, halt the Nord Stream II project, which finances Putin’s criminal regime,” the MEP noted. According to R. Juknevičienė, the poisonings of Litvinenko and the Skripals, last year’s murder in a Berlin park and a poisoning case in Bulgaria – all these are not simple crimes.

“These are carefully planned terrorist acts, which were performed by the Russian intelligence agencies. There is evidence that the criminals are exploiting the EU visa issuing system’s weaknesses, receiving Schengen visas for non-existent individuals. This must stop. Our citizens could also be targeted,” the MEP stated.

This Wednesday, the German government declared that the Bundeswehr’s toxicologists, based on test results, reached the conclusion that an attempt on A. Navalny was made with a nerve paralysing chemical weapon of the Novichok group. A. Navalny is one of the most vehement critics of Russian President V. Putin. The politician is now being treated in Berlin. He felt ill during an aeroplane flight on August 20 and was immediately submitted for treatment to a hospital in Omsk, but at the demand of his family and colleagues, he was later transferred to Germany. It is suspected that the poison was placed in tea, which A. Navalny drank in Tomsk Airport. COMMENTS Aa

2020.09.02

Andrius Kubilius appointed European Parliament’s Standing Rapporteur on Russia

MEP Andrius KUBILIUS (EPP, LT) became the Standing Rapporteur on Russia by the decision of the European Parliament (EP) Committee on Foreign Affairs. The status of the standing rapporteur is unique in that MEPs appointed to such offices throughout their term are tasked with forming the European Parliament’s position for their subject matter.

Upon becoming the standing rapporteur for Russia-related matters, MEP Kubilius will form the European Parliament’s position and perception of what is occurring in Russia, as well as preparing reports, resolutions, and special hearings related to Russia.

Until now, the European Union’s Eastern Partnership Policy has been one of the most important topics that. Kubilius has been working on in the European Parliament. The MEP co-chairs the EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly, whose chief area of operations is changes in Eastern Partnership states, including Belarus. The Eastern Partnership states (Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan) are an important geopolitical aspect of the European continent, finding themselves between the European Union and Russia, and according to the MEP, the expansion of political responsibilities in the European Parliament to also include Russia is natural, albeit somewhat unexpected. “My critical view of the Kremlin regime was formed long ago, and it is unchanging. I have made no effort to conceal it while at the European Parliament – just last year, the informal Friends of European Russia Forum I initiated began active operation. In it, together with the representatives of Russian opposition, as well as experts, we discussed when and how changes would begin in Russia akin to the ones currently underway in Belarus,” Kubilius says.

“Up to now, it appeared that ‘old Europe’ has a different perception of Russia than we, ‘new Europe’ do, and it came as a pleasant surprise when the leadership of the European People’s Party (EPP) proposed that I take this important and responsible office related to Russia affairs,” Kubilius says.

“Russia, as we know, is a country, which will never leave you “bored”. Just recently we have had events from the poisoning of Alexei Navalny to the continuing protests in Khabarovsk, and it is my belief that the European Union must have a markedly clearer geopolitical strategy regarding Russia and in it, ‘Belarussian changes’ could begin just as suddenly and unexpectedly as they did in Belarus itself. This is the strategy we will pursue.” On Tuesday at the proposal of Kubilius, the AFET’s meeting listened to information on possibilities to perform an objective international investigation on the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Navalny. It was agreed that a committee sitting in the near future would continue deliberations in regard to this.

A. Kubilius. Belarus: several comments on international issues

Belarus’s affairs keep our attention. Inside Belarus, the developments have their own dynamics. People on the streets continue to defend their 9th August victory. Meanwhile Lukashenko changes tactics to stifle individual protests or places of protest – detains individual protesters, journalists and strike committee leaders much more “politely” than before; tries to intimidate certain groups in society: students, teachers, workers in striking factories; seeks Putin’s support even more intensively.

However, all this Lukashenko’s “self-defence” (even with a machine gun in his hands) does not change the fundamental changes that have already taken place in Belarus: nothing will change the fact that Lukashenko lost the election on 9 August. He lost very painfully. He is very well aware of this and therefore is simply afraid of new, transparent elections; He knows that if they took place and he decides to take part in them, he would lose even more. That is the essence of the “Belarusian crisis”. The Belarusian people do not forget the essence, nor can the international community, which is also increasingly paying more attention to the “Belarusian crisis”, forget the essence. Many issues related to the “Belarusian crisis” are being discussed in the international community, including us, Lithuanians: sanctions, support to victims, release of political prisoners, investigation of OMON crimes, provision of financial support to Belarus. However, in this multiplicity of various larger and smaller issues, two essential things must not be forgotten: 1) Lukashenko lost the election; 2) New elections must be held immediately, not “at some time later on”. Bellow, I will try to set out some of the provisions that Lithuania, together with its Western partners, should follow in those international organizations to which Lithuania belongs and which can effectively help the people of Belarus to defend their victory in the democratic revolution. These are the provisions that Lithuania should adhere to, first, in the structures of the European Union and the OSCE. These are certainly not some comprehensive provisions of any kind of systemic strategy, but the most relevant ones for the international community, Lithuania and the Belarusian society in the next few months.

5 NOVEMBER AND LUKASHENKO

Belarus lives under the current “Lukashenko Constitution”. It stipulates that the term of office of the President shall last for 5 years. Lukashenko’s current term will end on 5 November, as it began on 5 November 2015, when Lukashenko took the oath during his inauguration. It is not worth arguing that the 2015 elections were legitimate (as such a debate will only divert attention from key issues), but it is worth making it clear that Lukashenko is currently the President who lost 9 August elections in terms of international law and whose term of office expires on 5 November. After 5 November, Belarus will not have a President for some time. Article 81 of the current Constitution of Belarus calls such a situation “when the office of President is vacant” (“Если должность Президента оказалась вакантной”) and provides that in this case extraordinary Presidential elections must be held no earlier than 30 days and no later than 70 days after such vacancy had occurred. After 5 November, Lukashenko will be an ordinary Belarusian citizen who can be called the “former President of Belarus.” If Lukashenko will try to organize an illegal and fictitious “new inauguration” before 5 November and will try to stay in the post of President after 5 November, it will be nothing more than an illegal usurpation of power, perhaps even using military force. From the point of view of international law and Belarusian national law, this should be treated as an armed coup.

It is worth realizing now, that after 5 November there will be no “President Lukashenko” in terms of international law. There will only be either “former President” or “coup d’etat Lukashenko”. This means that any dialogue or negotiation with Lukashenko will no longer be possible: it will either any longer make sense or it will be illegal. In addition, the existence of a “coup d’etat Lukashenko” will have a number of other international consequences (diplomats, agreements, contracts, etc.) that Lithuania and the international community must begin to consider now. According to Article 89 of the Constitution of Belarus, in the event that the office of President is vacant, the Prime Minister of the country shall hold the office temporarily (until new elections are held). After 5 November, the international community will have to negotiate with the Prime Minister of Belarus on how to ensure that genuinely democratic and transparent new presidential elections are held no later 70 days after 5 November.

BRUSSELS, BERLIN, WASHINGTON – AND MOSCOW

In matters of the “Belarusian crisis”, the international community clearly falls into two camps: Western democracies (including Lithuania) show solidarity with the Belarusian society, which won the democratic revolution, while Putin does not hide his support for the Lukashenko regime. At the same time, Putin’s support for Lukashenko is becoming the only factor why Lukashenko is still holding on to the post. Putin himself, as a dictator like Lukashenko, has many reasons for doing so, but in any case, Putin’s long-term support for “toxic” Lukashenko may turn Putin himself “toxic” in the eyes of Belarusians. It is not surprising to us, to Western leaders, or to the Belarusians themselves, that Putin is holding the keys to the door of Lukashenko’s withdrawal. Lukashenko himself became a fully-fledged vassal of the Kremlin during the 26 years of his reign. Therefore, we should not be surprised that Western leaders are calling on Lukashenko’s host, Putin, and are negotiating with him, rather than with Lukashenko, on the issue of Lukashenko’s withdrawal. It is also quite clear that Putin is trying to draw his “red lines” in such negotiations on the geopolitical future of Belarus after Lukashenko. The Western community and its leaders, in solidarity with the people of Belarus, must adhere to clear rules in such talks with Putin: they can negotiate on how Putin shall persuade the defeated Lukashenko to resign peacefully, but the geopolitical future of Belarus will be decided and negotiated by the new democratic Belarus itself, rather than by the West-Putin agreement reached without the participation of Belarus’s legal representatives. Following Putin’s latest statements about “reserve” OMON support the Kremlin is prepared to provide to the Lukashenko regime, the West must also be ready to see more and more critical posters towards Putin start appearing not only on the streets of Khabarovsk but also on the streets of Minsk. The posters perhaps may feature the question: “Mister Putin – who are you with Lukashenko or the People of Belarus? I have written before, that revolutionary changes in Belarus are becoming a “trap” for Putin. Putin has no good way out of this trap. The West must be prepared for the development, that Putin’s own stance on Belarus may influence a radical change in the orientation of Belarusian society: rapid frustration with Russia’s stance and growing sympathy for the West. Therefore, the longer Putin demonstrates his “friendship” with Lukashenko’s toxic regime, the fewer opportunities the Kremlin will have to hybrid-influence Belarus’s political processes and post-Lukashenko elections. The example of Ukraine shows that Putin can be “thanked” for uniting Ukraine on a pro-Western agenda since 2014, and because of that the Kremlin is still unable to regain any significant hybrid leverage to significantly influence Ukrainian policy.
Lithuania, for its part, must already formulate a clear position for the Western partners set out above: after 5 November, Lukashenko will remain only an ordinary “former President”, otherwise he will become a “Lukashenko of coup d’etat”. In any case, it will make no sense nor will be right to have a dialogue or negotiate with him.

THE ROLE OF THE OSCE

There is a growing recognition in the West that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is best placed to take action to address the current “crisis in Belarus”. Primarily because its members are both the West and the East from Vilnius, Berlin and Washington to Moscow and Minsk. OSCE is the only political organization on the European continent of which Belarus is a member. The extent to which the current OSCE is ready to address the “Belarus crisis” remains the subject of further discussions. It is well known that at least the OSCE election observation body ODIHR is able to do its job effectively. It is an easy guess that Russia, also a member of the OSCE, will try to use the OSCE’s role in favour of the Lukashenko regime, that is, to delay time. Therefore, the West, including Lithuania, together with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, representing the democratic society of Belarus, and its Coordinating Council should formulate a clear position – the role of the OSCE in resolving the “Belarusian crisis” is needed only for transparent and democratic elections; the entire organization (from the setting up of new commissions to the effective monitoring of voting) should be taken over by the ODIHR. It would be a mistake to enter into an indefinite OSCE negotiation process that negotiates any unclear processes of transitional periods or power shift from Lukashenko to the new democracy. Because it could simply become a new “Minsk process”, in which, as in the case of the war against Ukraine, the Kremlin will raise new and new conditions, but will not take any action that depends solely on the Kremlin.

NO! – TO THE LUKASHENKA/LAVROV PLAN: A NEW CONSTITUTION IN THE BEGINNING, INSTEAD OF NEW ELECTIONS

One of the questions to be answered immediately, in particular, by Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and the Coordinating Council is their view of the plan announced by Lukashenko and promoted by Lavrov and Putin – that Lukashenko will initially draft a new Constitution for Belarus, and only once it has been adopted new elections will be held. Lukashenko makes no secret that such an action could go on for the duration of the next few years. It is quite clear that the Kremlin will seek to turn this procrastination plan into an OSCE-based plan. Lithuania should clearly state its position that such a plan is completely unacceptable. Not Lukashenko, who lost the election, will decide on the new draft Constitution. The Coordinating Council formed by Tsikhanouskaya has made a similar statement: new transparent elections will be held immediately at first, followed by a national referendum proposing a return of the democratic Constitution of Belarus, which was in force until 1994. It is worth repeating these provisions clearly and loudly over and over again so that it also reaches the offices of Western leaders, who must be properly prepared to resist the “constitutional pitfalls” of Lukashenko/Lavrov in negotiations with Putin, designed just to delay time.

LITHUANIA AND THE EU: MARSHALL PLAN FOR DEMOCRATIC BELARUS

Lithuania, together with Poland, is legally recognized as the most active supporter of democratic change in Belarus among EU members. The Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius deserved such an assessment with their statements and actions, and the same goes to journalist and public activist Andrius Tapinas (organizer of the “Freedom Way”) and 50,000 Lithuanians, who united themselves to form a human chain of solidarity on the Freedom Way on 23 August. However, such an assessment is not only a recognition but also a huge responsibility. A responsibility that requires of us not only the ability to maintain the leadership, but also the ability to strategically plan for the future for at least few years in advance and the most difficult challenges facing a new, democratic Belarus. It requires preparing already now, seriously and effectively, both for ourselves and for the EU as a whole, to help the new Belarus respond to these challenges. I have already written that one of the most difficult challenges will be the affairs of the Belarusian economy, which is completely dependent on Russia (and thus on the Kremlin). I will not repeat all the arguments as to why the most important thing in the near future will be to help the Belarusian economy become more diversified and, at the same time, less dependent on Russia. However, in order to achieve this, the European Union will have to provide not only EUR 50 million in support (which is now much talked about), but much bigger support package of EUR 3.5-4 billion, which could also be called the Marshall Plan for Democratic Belarus. Lithuania, together with Poland, should take the initiative for the EU to start preparing such a Marshall Plan now. News of such a Plan would help today as well: it would counter the propaganda and intimidation of the Lukashenko regime that new elections and real democracy in Belarus would be very detrimental to the Belarusian economy. The European Union should not be afraid to draw a clear distinction: if the Kremlin promises to lend one billion to support the Lukashenko regime, then the EU is ready to support the democratic economy of Belarus with billions of the Marshall Plan. However, in order to take the lead in implementing such an EU initiative, Lithuania should already provide not only moral or political asylum support to the democracy of Belarus, but also needs to show its solidarity with real financial commitments. Poland has announced that it will provide 50 million zloty in support of democracy in Belarus (about EUR 12 million), while Lithuania has not yet spoken about the similar commitments. It is quite difficult to understand why, at a time when the Government this year is spending billions to the left and right, one or two million are difficult to find to support democracy in Belarus, not only nice political statements. I am convinced that Seimas would support such a proposal of the Government by an absolute majority of votes.

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The fate of the Belarusian democracy is being decided on the streets of Minsk. I firmly believe that the victory of democracy will prevail. My optimism stems not only from faith in and admiration for the new civic Belarusian nation but also from a clear understanding that change in Belarus is driven by objective historical processes: the continued collapse of the Soviet/Russian Empire and its post-imperial spheres of influence as well as the end of post-Soviet authoritarian leaders. The changes that are taking place in Belarus are objective, based on natural laws of history and no one can stop them. Somebody may try to delay these historical processes by shedding the blood of peaceful people, but they will fail to stop them. Lithuania’s task is not only to directly help and show solidarity with a democratic Belarus. Lithuania’s task is also to be the most effective advocate and lobbyist for a democratic Belarus in a democratic Western community, where there is still too little understanding of the historical processes taking place in the post-Soviet space and too much desire not to irritate “the wild” Putin, who is poisoning his opponents.

2019.09.19

EP calls for countering Russia’s attempts to whitewash Soviet crimes

The European Parliament called on the European Commission on Thursday to counter Russia’s attempts to whitewash crimes committed by the Soviet totalitarian regime.
In a resolution adopted to mark the 80th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, European lawmakers expressed concern over Moscow’s attempts to whitewash crimes committed by the Soviet totalitarian regime and called them a “dangerous component of the information war waged against democratic Europe”.

Read more: https://en.delfi.lt/politics/ep-calls-for-countering-russias-attempts-to-whitewash-soviet-crimes.d?id=82300219

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