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.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.