News

    Freed Belarus Presidential Candidate: Lukashenko Only Responds to Pressure

    Former presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov speaks during an interview with Reuters at his apartment in Minsk, April 16, 2012.
    Former presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov speaks during an interview with Reuters at his apartment in Minsk, April 16, 2012.
    James Brooke

    Andrei Sannikov ran for president of Belarus in December 2010 against Alexander Lukashenko, ruler of Belarus since 1994. For his pains, Sannikov and six other presidential candidates were beaten by police and  jailed. On Saturday night, the eve of Orthodox Christian Easter, Sannikov was unexpectedly released from jail.

    After 16 months in jail, Andrei Sannikov said Monday that he was literally blinking in the sunshine.

    He spoke of his sudden reunion in Minsk with his wife, Irina, and their four year old son, Danil.

    “Fantastic; that was something I waited for  so long, and I hoped - not every day, [but] every second - I hoped that it would happen, and finally it happened,”

    Sannikov, a former deputy foreign minister, honed his English while working as a diplomat in New York. He said he fears for the 15 other political prisoners in Belarus, including one other former presidential candidate.

    Sannikov was released early from a five-year sentence. He described the pressure of living in a high security prison, controlled by a security agency still called in Belarus, the KGB.

    “It was really unbearable psychologically, and physically also," he said. "There was a lot of pressure on me, threats, pressure and for almost four months I was in [a] solitary cell.”

    As a politician, Sannikov led “European Belarus.” He said Belarus should look west and join the European Union. As leader of a cause popular among young people in this Central European nation, he said he felt that his life was always in danger in prison.

    He said the most frightening times came when he was locked in prison railroad cars with criminals and moved from prison to prison.

    “You can expect anything there because you are not controlling the situation," he said. "You are absolutely helpless. They could plant with you any criminal with whatever intentions or instructions. It was really very dangerous situation. You have to be on guard 24 hours a day.”

    While Sannikov was in prison, President Alexander Lukashenko moved closer to Russia, receiving loans that saved Belarus from falling into a deep recession.

    In the West, European countries saw no progress on human rights. They withdrew all their ambassadors and tightened sanctions against Lukashenko regime officials.

    Sannikov praised the European Union for following Washington’s lead and adopting a tough sanctions policy.

    He said the West should treat the Lukashenko government the way it once treated the Soviet Union.

    "It was based on principle," said Sannikov. "So we have to base our policy, our activity here, in Belarus, on principle, and the West, the democratic world in general, has to base their policy on principle."

    He said that the beating and jailing of almost all the opposition presidential candidates exposed to Europeans the clearly dictatorial nature of the Lukashenko government.

    “Before, the regime was pretending that we are not a totalitarian state, that there is a kind of democracy here in Belarus, that the West does not understand," he said. "But on the 19th of December 2010, the regime declared itself a dictatorship and we are facing all the consequences now.”

    After watching Alexander Lukashenko rule Belarus for 18 years, Sannikov said the only language the dictator responds to is pressure. 


    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora