His father was a well-known Belarusian art researcher, while his mother was a teacher of the Russian language. His grandfather Konstantin Sannikov was a well-known actor and film director in the BSSR, one of founders of the Janka Kupala National Theatre, and a teacher at the Belarusian Theater and Art Institute in Moscow.
Sannikov first attended school #42 , and in 1977 he graduated from Minsk State Linguistic University.He is fluent in his native Belarusian, Russian, English, and French.
After graduating, Sannikov spent time working for a Soviet oil company in Pakistan and in Egypt working on the construction of an aluminum plant.
Sannikov then went to work at the Union of Soviet Societies for Friendship and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, and in 1982 began serving at the UN Secretariat in New-York City. He remained in New York for five years.
Just before the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, Sannikov graduated from the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation in Moscow. Then he worked in the Foreign Ministry of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic. At one of the sessions, he quoted “The Foreign Ministry should not be in service of one party, but must serve to the Belarusian nation.”
In 1992 Sannikov headed the Belarusian delegation on Nuclear and Conventional Weapons Armament Negotiations. He had authority of signature in the matter on behalf of Belarus, an authority he retained until 1995.
During this time, he was also an advisor to the Belarusian diplomatic mission in Switzerland.
From 1995 to 1996 he served as Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus, and obtained the rank of Ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary.
In November 1996, on the eve of a controversial referendum, Sannikov resigned from his post as a sign of protest.The referendum severely limited democratic standards and the separation of powers in Belarusia, and changed the Belarus constitution to extend Lukashenko's presidential term. According to the Belarus Speaker of Parliament, 20 to 50 percent of the counted votes were falsified.
As independent politician, activist:
In November 1997, Sannikov was one of the co-founders of the civil initiative Charter 97, becoming its international coordinator. Charter 97 is a human rights group modeled on Charter 77 in then-Czechoslovakia. The group hosts one of the most popular Belarusian news web pages, and is a rare voice of opposition to the Lukashenko party in Belarus.
In 1998, Sannikov and Hienadz Karpienka created the Coordinating Council of Democratic Forces of Belarus, which actively speaks for human rights. Victor Ivashkevich and Mikhail Marinich also took part.
In the years following, Sannikov helped organize a variety of non-violent protests in Belarus, including protests against the elections of 2001, 2004, 2006, and 2008, which were heavily criticized by the OSCE and the EU for lack of transparency, intimidation of voters, suppression of opposition groups, and suspected falsification of results.When the mass protests after the presidential election in 2006 were violently suppressed by riot police, Sannikov stated he was beaten and jailed, and his computers, disks, and memory sticks were seized.
On 4 April 2005, the international Bruno Kreisky Prize was awarded to Sannikov at an award ceremony in the State Hall of the National Library in Vienna. The Bruno Award celebrates accomplishments in human rights.
In 2008 Andrei Sannikov, together with Viktar Ivashkevich, Mikhail Marynich and other politicians, initiated the civil campaign European Belarus. The campaign advocates joining Belarus with the European Union and aims to work towards the standards that would allow inclusion.
In March 2010 Andrei Sannikov declared his intention on the TV channel Belsat to take part in Belarus presidential election of 2010 as a candidate
After the election results were revealed, the opposition leaders organized a demonstration on the evening of 19 December in the center of Minsk. However, the demonstration was suppressed by the police. Sannikov and his wife Iryna Khalip were among those attacked by police during the rally, and according to eyewitness statements gathered by Charter 97, Sannikov was singled out from the crowd for a beating
Both Khalip and Sannikov were detained in a KGB facility in Minsk.
On 14 May he was jailed for five years for organising mass disturbances.
Andrei Sannikov has two sons. His wife, Belarusian journalist Iryna Khalip, was dubbed a "Hero of Europe" by TIME in 2005 and was awarded the 2009 Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women's Media Foundation.