The leader of the Belarusian social movement “Tell the truth” Tatsiana Karatkevich last year became the first female candidate for President of Belarus. In the elections she took the second place after Lukashenka. It against any sudden shocks, stands for peaceful, gradual reform of the economic and political system of Belarus. According to sociological polls, currently its activities approve about 22% of the population.
— 15 February, the Council of foreign Ministers of EU countries decided on the partial withdrawal from the Belarus sanctions. Some opposition leaders have spoken out against this decision. In their view, the sanctions cannot be lifted before the parliamentary elections to be held in September. You approved the lifting of sanctions. Why?
— Today Belarus in order to develop successfully, we need a balanced international relations. Belarus is a country located in Central Europe, but it is still no basic agreement with the EU, very low turnover, in General, very few contacts with the EU countries. We believe that for our country it is very important to develop these relationships. But we believe that if we withdraw or suspend the sanctions, it is very important to do it beacause. And the most important condition — that the country began economic and political reforms, which was not last 20 years.
— What should be the reforms?
— Today really need a change in government economic policy: the diminishing role of the state, creating conditions for private business development, the creation of a stable investment legislation. It is necessary to make the country began to earn, and people who live in it, felt it in their wallets. So they understand that not receive “unemployment compensation” as it is now, and a decent salary. In addition, the Belarusian economy is close to zero, there is also the political sphere, which also tends to zero. Never heard an alternative point of view, there is no discussion, no conversation, no debate. It is necessary that the 2016 elections to the Parliament more transparent to the Parliament sounded an alternative point of view.
— You will participate in these elections?
— We participate in this election: and I, Tatiana Korotkevich, and the movement “Tell the truth”, which I chair. And with me for about 30 candidates.
— What is the movement “Tell the truth”?
— “Tell the truth” appeared in 2010. We have participated in all political campaigns: the presidential in 2010 we had our own candidate Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu. We also participated in local and parliamentary campaigns and the second presidential.
— Why did you decide to run for presidential election?
— The decision was very difficult, the motives were many. One of the most important reasons for me is that I am a representative of the majority of the population who want change. I was a teacher, worked in the social sphere, and then became a political and civic activist. For me it was a natural decision.
In 2015, the permanent leader of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko became President for the fifth time. Beside him is a younger son Nikolai.
— Why did you decide that you have enough power to challenge Lukashenka?
In 2010 we candidate Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu has officially gained about 10%. This year, according to sociological studies, our activities approve about 20% of people.
— How do you assess the recent presidential elections, their fairness?
— Everything related to signature collection and agitation was sufficiently liberal. We could carry out the collection of signatures, open canvassing campaign. But there were a lot of restrictions. We are unable sufficiently to nominate their representatives to precinct election commissions, where counting the votes. We also are unable to hold their campaign events where we wanted. The main peak of violations of the law was a week of voting. I filed a complaint with the CEC in which it was recorded about a thousand cases of violations of the law. I’m not officially acknowledged the results of these elections.
The rally of the Belarusian opposition.
— These violations could affect the results of Lukashenko. But in General he seems to have won: he’s a popular leader.
— This policy is already 22 years in power, and, of course, he’s popular. Here there is no dispute. We all know it. But the service of Gallup and our own research has shown that Lukashenko scored a little more than 50%. That is, he could win in a fair election. But today because of the violations we surely can not say.
— Is it possible in Belarus Maidan?
— No. Today it is absolutely impossible. And in 2010, was not independence — it was a peaceful protest. People came out to say that they are here and they vote differently. But we made the mistakes, and today our strategy is evolutionary development. We understand that in order to ensure that votes were counted correctly, and that the people, citizens, influence decision making, we need to cultivate these people, give them the tools, to give an idea. And we’re working on. Today Belarusians supported Tatiana Korotkevich, its program is peaceful change, because they learn from the lessons of our neighbors. Now we have the level of social tension is minimal. I judge it based on my experience of communication with voters: I drove over a hundred cities in Belarus, talk to people. Belarusians are people who try not to go to conflict. They try to understand and make the right decision. Our situation cannot be compared to Ukrainian.
— Do you think the future of Belarus in the Union with Europe or with Russia?
— In this country now such sentiments: we want to live in his house and make friends with the neighbors both from the West and from the East. Our country is independent for 25 years. Belarusians appreciate the relationships that they have with Russia, but want to develop relations with the EU.
— Are there, in your opinion, the problems in relations between Belarus and Russia?
— We have problems with Russia, but I believe they are all solvable. Belarus signed the agreement on the Eurasian economic Union, it entered into force a year ago. For Belarus this year’s results were not very good. We have many Russian partners have lost. Many of the agreements, the agreements remained unimplemented. My position is that the Russian side should understand that Belarus is a partner. We also would like understanding on the part of Russia that whoever was the leader of Belarus, he still has a duty and obligation to protect the national interest of the country. Is and always will be, and there is nothing wrong and conflict. We are in the heart of Europe, we have a lot of neighbors.
— In your program there is a paragraph on visa-free regime with the EU. How realistic this is?
Is a very distant prospect. Today, we are very interested in promoting cross-border movement between Belarus and the EU. But even in this case, for we don’t have indulgences. The first step in this direction is to make it so that the Belarusians could apply for a visa in the EU at least at the same price at which the Russians make it. Possible after the conclusion of standard basic cooperation agreement with the EU. We don’t even do that.
— Although our countries are strategic partners, today Belarus does not support all important for Russian decision. For example, Minsk has not supported Moscow on the issue of recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. If you become President, the recognition of these republics is going to happen?
— Here you need to distinguish between very subtle: economic cooperation and political interaction. Still, we are different countries and have a right to their point of view. Today Belarus is neutral in international conflicts abroad. And this is very good because it is beneficial to Belarus was a source of peace, the donor of peace in our region. Neutrality was also part of my program. As a good and responsible neighbor I would be interested in helping in conflict resolution.
— But because the strategic partnership requires the support of a partner on key issues for him?
— Of course, we are strategic partners, but it doesn’t change the fact that we may have on some issues different positions.
— Your attitude to what is happening in Ukraine?
— I am very worried. It is very important that in Ukraine and in Russia was the world. Because many Belarusians try on the Ukrainian situation. Try on different. Sometimes collect signatures for their nomination and hear: “You are the opposition, then, want of independence.” Although really we just want to talk about alternative approaches to the development of Belarus. Some of the other fear: that Russia will see in us the enemy and also attack. Some are afraid of NATO. A lot of different positions. We are in favour of neutrality. We say that Belarus should not be foreign military bases. Neither the Russian nor NATO. Belarus has a long history, it often became a battlefield.
— Do you think that Russia attacked Ukraine?
— It is difficult to say even about what happened on the Maidan. Different versions are put forward. But I believe that Russia has interfered in Ukraine’s Affairs. Since the Crimean history. I support the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
— So you think that Russia has made annexation of Crimea?
— Yes. So says the international community, and it’s hard to argue with the experts that made its findings and conclusions.
Photo: MK TV
— You doubt that most people in Crimea want to live in Russia?
— I wasn’t on the Crimean referendum. I am guided by the international assessment of these events. But today, in fact, the Crimea is Russian. We know that.
In mentioning the need for “genuine neutrality” of Belarus. What does it mean?
— The Constitution of the Republic of Belarus there is article 18, which States that our country should strive for neutrality. It is a priority. If Tatiana Korotkevich becomes President, this does not mean that immediately at one point we become a neutral country. This means that we strive for it and need to do a number of steps. One of them is to make it so that on our territory there were foreign military bases and facilities. It’s real. Because today there are two Russian facility in our territory, treaties of finding which are valid until 2020. And if Tatiana Korotkevich — President, she said: “dear and dear partner, we are running out of contract, we believe that we are not going to renew it”. And we are on this long negotiation, discussion, but focus on public opinion, which is also interested in the fact that Belarus was neutral. There is a second very important point is the collective security Treaty, which we signed. We also believe that we can withdraw from the CSTO in the near future. Of course, this not solve one day.
— Why you are not satisfied with the CSTO?
— It doesn’t quite work, and he creates for us a coherent regional security. Under this agreement we are subject to certain dangers of Belarusians today know neutrality is very simple: “in our territory there is no foreign military, we are not a threat, and our young people are not going to fight for foreign interests on foreign soil”.
— And today they’re coming?
— The Treaty on collective security implies that if a country signing the agreement there is a conflict, we must help and participate.
The contract is part of the integration processes in the post-Soviet space, you are against integration?
— No, I’m not against integration, on the contrary. Just need to call a spade a spade. We have the Eurasian economic Union is a Single customs Union, there is agreement in the security sphere. We have just to respect and enhance these relationships. We say that Belarus needs neighborly relations with all countries, and we would like to develop a full-fledged multi-vector policy, foreign including. We would also like to develop relations with the nearest countries, with countries of the Visegrad group — Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary. With Ukraine, too.
Can you give me an example of a successful genuine neutrality in the post-Soviet space?
— Post-Soviet — not. But there is a good example — Sweden.
— Judging by the experience of other republics of the former Soviet space, neutrality and the withdrawal of Russian military facilities can only be a first step. It will be followed by the emergence of other military installations and NATO membership.
— The position of the Belarusians, and my including, is very clear: we are against NATO bases, as well as against Russian bases. But let’s face it. We have radar and objects of the Navy of the Russian Federation. We think that Russia has today and the resources and opportunities to support these old ineffective database. Because we know that in Kaliningrad there is the radar, which in principle takes over all the functions of an object that is located in Belarus. The same applies to the object Navy: he has an important strategic function. Therefore, we believe that it is possible to negotiate to these facilities after 2020 was not.
Watch the video on “the Former candidate in presidents of Belarus Karatkevich told about the lifting of sanctions”
Tatiana Korotkevich – political figure of Belarus, candidate for the presidency in 2015, told “MK” about his vision of the relationship between Belarus, Europe and Russia, as well as about the lifting of sanctions against Minsk. Details on the video, as well as in our material.