Tsikhanouskaya’s arrival in Vilnius – a victory for Lithuanian diplomacy or a mistake?

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya in Lithuania
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya in Lithuania

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who rose up to challenge the last dictator in Europe, eternal Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, is now in Vilnius. But is her decision to travel to Lithuania actually a victory of our country’s foreign policy and diplomacy Birutė Vyšniauskaitė writes in lrytas.lt?

Is there no risk for the decision to grant this woman asylum to morph into a mistake? The lrytas.lt portal spoke to March 11 Act signatory, former minister of foreign affairs, Petras Vaitiekūnas who also worked as the Lithuanian ambassador to Belarus and Ukraine.

Now, following her withdrawal from the revolution in Belarus, she can participate in the Seimas elections in Lithuania. This must be avoided at all costs.

“S. Tsikhanouskaya is not a leader of the resistance. She is an accidental symbol of the presidential elections in Belarus. Furthermore, the “symbol,” with the aid of Lukashenko’s KGB, voluntarily withdrew from the country. It is clear that Lukashenko helped her depart and will not permit her to return. Unless she spoke for an end to the unrest, which could grow into a resolution opposing the Lukashenko regime,” P. Vaitiekūnas is convinced.

Do you believe that S. Tsikhanouskaya acted unwisely by departing Belarus?

I think Tsikhanouskaya made a mistake. Now, it is essential for Lithuania that her mistake would not become our mistake.

Why do you think she arrived in Lithuania?

She simply panicked. After all, there has been no politics and politicians in Belarus thus far. There were only dissidents and Tsikhanouskaya is generally an accidental individual in politics who landed in the presidential elections and became their symbol.

How do we avoid this?

We should hurry to come to terms with Warsaw, Washington and Brussels. Perhaps it could be beneficial if Tsikhanouskaya were to form a Belarussian government in exile? Or perhaps there are other possible steps she could take? What is most important is that Lukashenko and the Kremlin’s cards wouldn’t be played in Lithuania.

You say that Lukashenko assisted Tsikhanouskaya in leaving Belarus. Could she really be cooperating with him?

Of course not. However, Lukashenko benefited from forcing her out of Belarus, especially ensuring it is done willingly so that she would not become the leader of an emerging resistance. But she is no leader anyway. Just as I mentioned – she is an accidental figure in the elections.

Indeed, if she held herself as being a leader, if she felt like a leader, she would have never departed Belarus in such a situation.

Indeed. Did Vytautas Landsbergis or Algirdas Brazauskas flee anywhere when Lithuania was in danger, even if they were offered this a number of times? These were real leaders.

Looking at the protests in Belarus, it is somehow unclear or perhaps it escapes one’s gaze, but what is the main demand of the people out on the streets?

The main demand is freedom and fair elections. The protesters should fight not for Tsikhanouskaya, but for the stolen presidential elecitons.

Good, but who could currently organise in Belarus just and democratic presidential elections?

The struggle against the Belarussian dictator should not become a struggle for a supposed leader. That’s the most important aspect. Tsikhanouskaya recused herself from the fight against the dictator. It is her own business. Lithuania should look for what it could win out of this. What it should do next.

What is to be done so that time wouldn’t act against our country?

As I mentioned, we must hurry to negotiate with Warsaw, Washington and Brussels, as well as all the most powerful leaders around the world. How do we make use of Tsikhanouskaya’s potential? So far, it is too early to proclaim Lithuania’s diplomatic victory.

Why do you make no mention of Ukraine? Should we not discuss with this country, which Lithuania has been supporting for so long in its own struggle?

Events in Minsk, in my belief, will develop based on a completely different scenario than in Moscow and Kyiv. Lukashenko must be forced to make changes in Belarus, for there to emerge a free press, parties and for dissidents to be able to become normally operating politicians, as well as for democratic processes to finally be transferred into parliament and finally for all elections to become free.

Perhaps from Vilnius, Warsaw, Washington and Brussels, special envoys should be sent by these countries’ presidents to Minsk, rather than relying on ambassadors?

Is it clear now that Lukashenko will be ruling from the post of Belarussian president for another five years?

Of course. And the Kremlin will help him overcome all the problems he faces. After all, opportunities for the annexation of Belarus were created based on all classical rules by none other than Lukashenko. However, for now the Kremlin does not need Belarus’ annexation because it is already in its hands.

No annexation will be needed – Belarus will be so deep in debt to Russia over Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant that Russia will only be left with a brotherly “sheltering” of Belarus.

The power plant in Astravyets is just one piece of leverage for annexation, but not the main one. However, of course, the current unrest in Belarus pose an extra headache for our country over the launch and future operation of this power plant.

What I find very eye catching is that the mass repressions perpetrated by the Lukashenko regime over the past few days are a clear indication that this involved targeted and rational preparation. The special services are working as if in a well directed film with a sharp plotline. However, the casualties aren’t yet counted in the hundreds and real bullets aren’t being shot yet.

But this could happen?

Of course. Both the Kremlin and Lukashenko will stop at nothing.

Do yo not find it notable that in the Belarussian protests, there are many youths, but vey few elderly individuals?

I do. Thus, everything will be decided based on whether the planned countrywide strike of the large factories and companies will begin. If it does happen and really does encompass all of Belarus, it will be clear that the nation has matured and is prepared to seriously oppose dictatorship.

However, if only a few factories go on strike, nothing will happen. Then, Lukashenko will disregard the demands for democratic changes.

So far, only one thing is clear – he is gradually selling off to Russia Belarus’ sovereignty. He is unwilling to sell in large chinks because he seeks to remain in the post of president for life. Lukashenko’s demonstration that he supposedly is combatting the Kremlin is only a piece of cunning acting. Everything will be unveiled by whether he returns to Ukraine the “Wagners” who fought in Donbas. I believe that he will definitely not yield them to Ukraine because the Kremlin will not permit him. If the opposite happens, we could potentially conclude that Lukashenko has moved into confrontation with Moscow.

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