The critics of President Alexander Lukashenko only agree that he has to go. Russia’s role in particular is controversial.
The minimal consensus of the opposition in Belarus is still bearing: new elections, a withdrawal of President Alexander Lukashenko and the release of political prisoners. But the differences about how to proceed and the ideas about a time after Lukashenko sowed discord in the ranks of the resistance. This conflict is reflected in the different views of Russia’s role.
For the Belarusian opposition activist Oleg Manayev, who has lived in exile in the US since 2015, the most likely scenario is Russian military intervention. It is possible that Lukashenko will provoke exactly the conditions that Putin mentioned.
While a large part of the opposition considers this scenario to be the most likely variant of further developments, another part is keen to maintain good relations with Russia. One understands this crisis as domestic. It was not directed against the state, the former presidential candidate Svetlana Tichanovskaya told Euronews at the end of last week. “But if we need international mediation in negotiations, we also see Russia as a participant in this process. Russia is a country with which we are friends.”
Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich was convinced that President Vladimir Putin should also be involved in communication with the Belarusian opposition. And for Pavel Latuschko, a member of the Coordination Council, it is “absolutely pragmatic to maintain very good relations with Russia,” argues him as saying.
Irina Krawetz from the non-governmental organization Nasch Dom, on the other hand, is appalled by the idea of expecting constructive cooperation from Russia. “Russia does not help the Belarusian people, Russia alone helps Lukashenko. Russia only does something for Belarus if it suits its interests,” Krawetz said to reporters. She doesn’t believe that Russia will bring another politician to power.
And with a view to Russia-friendly statements by representatives of the Coordination Council, the political scientist Sergei Marzelew complains that things were said that cannot be forgiven politically active people.
“Russia is not reliable as a negotiating partner. We cannot trust Putin and Lukashenko.” For Marzelev, who was General Secretary of the Belarusian Social Democrats just three years ago, Lukashenko’s talk about constitutional reform is eyewash.
According to Marzelew, states like Germany and the US, which prefer to come to an understanding with the Kremlin on Belarus, are also to blame for the overvaluation of the Russian role. The founding of the “Together” party announced by Maria Kolesnikova and the imprisoned presidential candidate Viktor Babariko is also causing trouble among Belarusian activists.
“It brings discord in the opposition and distracts from the main goal,” warns Sergei Marzelew. For the green Liolik Uchkin, “Together” is a right-wing conservative party with a neoliberal agenda. And Irina Krawetz from Nasch Dom doesn’t understand why a party should be founded right now.
And the leftist Alexander Oparin is afraid of the abolition of the social gains of the Belarusian state by neoliberal opposition groups. Overall, Oparin told reporters, the opposition tended to move closer to Europe. This goes hand in hand with the scaling back of some of the social advantages of Belarus.
But while Oparin is afraid of a pro-Western course, Sergei Marzelev is rather worried about an opposition that is not moving at all. The coordination council is too ineffective. “How do you want to achieve political change with over a thousand people.”
He also expects more decisive behavior from Svetlana Tichanovskaya. “She must be sworn in as president by October 9th, in the presence of members of the last legitimate parliament and the last legitimate constitutional court.” The last legitimate institutions go back to 1996. That year Lukashenko undermined the separation of powers.