Belarusians understand that if there is no free Ukraine, we will not exist. From RFE/RL’s Belarusian service.
On social media, many Ukrainians are asking why Belarus allowed Russia to attack Ukraine from Belarusian territory, and why Belarusians did not stop the Russian tanks. In a wartime situation, these nuances mean little because other things are more important, even though you need to hear them, says Belarusian journalist Dzmitry Hurnyevich.
- In Belarus there has been no legitimate government since at least November 2020 (although in practice since the anti-constitutional coup of 1996.) Belarus is governed by a pro-Moscow puppet regime which no longer decides anything for itself.
- The vast majority of Belarusians oppose the puppet regime. This was demonstrated by the 2020 protests, Europe’s biggest in decades. Belarusians were killed, beaten, and tortured. Over a thousand people are in prison, and around 50,000 have been subject to repression. The protest movement was defeated because Putin supported Lukashenka and became his only lifeline. After this came the terror in Belarus, similar to that of the 1930s. This is not a literary device: this is an objective reality.
- Today the atmosphere of fascism in Belarus is total. You can end up in prison for a “like,” a comment, an unwary word. I watch a video of a Ukrainian in Melitopol [near Crimea] who has Russian soldiers on the run … and he walks away without harm. Meanwhile, another Ukrainian is capturing it all on video. In Belarus, this has been impossible for a year and a half. There are enough law enforcement agencies to cover any dissent, even by banned bird and wildlife protection organizations – because, after all, some of these organizations oppose the regime! In Belarus, people are arrested and mocked every day. In such conditions, it takes a long time to organize resistance, but the work carries on.
- In principle, this is the first point: Belarus is under occupation. If the government is illegitimate, then there was no authority to give Russians passage through Belarus [to Ukraine]. Putin has captured Belarus, but he allows Lukashenka to call himself president of a sovereign Belarus.
- Belarusians are not only in anguish about Ukraine and praying for the country. They are also collecting money for refugees, for the Ukrainian army. There are Belarusians serving in the Ukrainian army. … Belarusians died for Ukraine during the war [in the Donbas].
- Are there people in Belarus who support Russia? Yes, there are. Just as there are Ukrainians in the Donbas who are for the enemy. Are there those who support Lukashenka? Yes, just like in Ukraine, where he has long been the most popular politician.
- Belarusians with brains and a conscience understand that if there is no free Ukraine, we will not exist.
Dzmitry Hurnyevich previously worked in Polish radio and on the Belsat television channel before joining Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Belarusian service in 2016. This commentary originally appeared there. Republished and adapted with permission.
Translated by Victoria Roberts.