Andrei Sannikov: Only a change of power

The presidential candidate does not intend to exchange his prison sentence for the legitimacy of the dictator.

Andrei Sannikov, who was sentenced to five years in jail for organizing protests against the falsified results of the presidential elections, has released this open letter:

“Only a regime change in Belarus can lead the country out of crisis. Moreover, only a change of government will be able to keep Belarus as an independent state, to save our language and culture. Today, we have a unique and, most importantly, a real chance to achieve this.

After 19 December 2010 it became clear to the whole world that the regime of Lukashenko is dangerous for Belarus, that the Belarusian nation does not support the current government, but was denied the right of choice because its voice was ignored. It is evident to everyone that the economic collapse in Belarus is the result of the policies of the current regime. More than that, the continued stay in power of Lukashenko will lead to a complete collapse of the economy.

We can and must now change our destiny and restore the reputation of Belarus in our relations with our neighbours, Russia and Europe, and also with the United States of America. Everyone is waiting for us to finally do it, ourselves. Exactly that question has now become important to Belarusians. The time for dialogue with the government was in the past. The last attempt for such dialogue ended on 19 December with the beatings of thousands of people and the arrests of hundreds. When the regime talks about dialogue, it has in mind the retention of power at any cost and the destruction of the opposition. We must remember our history and learn lessons from it.

Today, many remember the dialogue with the government in 1999, but avoid a principled assessment of the dialogue. I think it was the most shameful page in the history of the Belarusian opposition, because the negotiating team, which was created by the OSCE Office and the Lukashenko regime, led the dialogue, closing its eyes to the deaths and disappearances of political leaders. In April 1999, Gennadii Karpenko died under mysterious circumstances. In May, Yurii Zakharenko vanished. In September, Viktor Gonchar and Anatolii Krasovskii were abducted. But the “negotiators” did not even remember them.

This alone deprives the same regime of the right to speak about dialogue, and the opposition should not even consider such a possibility. The result of that (former) dialogue has been 12 years of vile dictatorship. The opposition cannot allow the government to once again set itself up as a “one-off” product. This is not what the people of Belarus are waiting for. This is not what our neighbours, both in Russia and the West, are waiting for. They are waiting for Belarus to become a normal predictable international partner.

I know that my position and my statement will prolong my stay in captivity, but it is a testament of the true intentions of the regime. All the prerequisites for a change of government, for a return to the people of the right to choose, exist today. What are needed are determination, courage and integrity.

History is being made today. We ourselves are making that history. Together we will win!”