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.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora