Belsat TV has interviewed Roman Bezsmertnyi, a former Ambassador of Ukraine to Belarus, who was withdrawn from Minsk after his criticising president Lukashenka for the brutal dispersal of the post-election protests in December, 2010.
You were working as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary in Belarus over a year. What are our country and Belarusians best remembered for?
The Belarusians is a talented nation, they have a distinguished culture. <…> I speak Ukrainian, my children go to school with the Ukrainian language of instruction, that is why the attitude towards the Belarusian language struck me. When I began to read Belarusian literature, I felt pity for what is happening in Belarus. And this pain never leaves me when I cross the Belarusian border. It is the nation, its culture, traditions that count; the authorities and regime are transient. The Belarusian people deserve the right to be part of the European family.
Is it correct to call the present-day state system of Belarus ‘Europe’s last dictatorship?’
On the one hand, Belarus has President and Parliament, or. as Belaruians call it, ‘palatka’ [rubber-stamping parliament]. But the real master is in the Kremlin. I understand why Mr Lukashenka makes all these gestures of him, but it does not seem that these authorities were actually elected by Belarusians and no one [from the Kremline] is controlling ithem. Loyalty tests are being constantly offered to them, i.e. proposals to deploy a military base, the privatization of Belaruskali enterprise … I have repeatedly heard in the corridors of power in Belarus: “Why have you come here for approval? Go to Moscow!”
You were in Belarus in 2010 when the presidential election campaign ended with the brutal crackdown on protests. Then you condemned the government’s actions. Do you remember those events?
It’s hard to forget that brawl. In my opinion, it was a tragedy and an iron-and-glass performance staged by the authorities. But in 2010, I could not even imagine what would happen in 2013-2014 in Kyiv. Atthat moment, i said that if Yanukovych were Lukashenka he would take off like a cork from a champagne bottle. No matter how strong the authorities in Kyiv are – they will never be able to steamroll the nation. After 2010, Lukashenka and his cronies do not deserve to remain in power.
Did that comment of yours affected your further career?
It was one of the reasons why I was released from his position. I was just doing my job and had no desire to be considerate of one or another political force.
Why hasn’t Ukraine appointed a new ambassador to Belarus yet?
This question should be put to the head of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry and the President. To be honest, I do not understand why. Probably, this fact has some connection to the negotiations on the conflict in Donbas.
How would you describe the current Belarusian-Ukrainian relations?
Neither peace nor war. I realize that the Ukrainian president and government do not want to lose what they have, but I would offer them to stay in Minsk a few days and watch local TV so that they could understand with whom they are dealing. All the talks about the friendship between Belarus and Ukraine do not count because the TV stations controlled by the Kremlin make us enemies.
What impact did the annexation of the Crimea and the war in Donbass have on the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations?
Animosity is growing because Belarusians are fighting on the both sides. But the attitude to those who are fighting on the Ukrainian side is different from the attitude to Russian-backed fighters. Look how the KGB is harassing the parents of Mikhail Zhyzneuski [Belarusian-born defender of Maidan in Kyiv]. The persons fighting on the Russian side are instructing your teenagers and those who are fighting for Ukraine are considered villains.
What benefits did Lukashenka reap after holding the talks on Donbas in Minsk?
Lukashenko has squeezed all that he could out of the war between Ukraine and Russia and the Minsk negotiation process. Previously, thee were only five international flights from Minsk , but now there are over forty. In any Russian city one can find shrimps and tropical fruits delivered from Belarus. This is my answer to your question. I’m not speaking about EU lifting sanctions! For ordinary Belarusians it is good news. But it will prolong Lukashenka’s ruling the country.
Can the Minsk talks be considered effective?
They are not enough to stop the war. Additional measures and the reconstruction of the Minsk process are needed. I do not believe that these talks will help establish peace. I hope to God that the number of assaults will be brought to a minimum and the exchange of illegally kept persons will take place. For the rest of issues, other formats should be established.
Is there some risk of Russia’s attack on Ukraine from the territory of Belarus?
If Russia wants to do this, no one will ask Belarusians for permission. By the way, Europe hardly realizes that it is dealing with Putin who is driven by the logic of war and not that of peace.
JW/Antos Tsyalezhnikau, belsat.eu