Speech by Pavel Latushka, head of the National Anti-Crisis Management at the University of Warsaw
University of Warsaw
17 May 2022
Distinguished Madam Ambassador, Madam Professor, distinguished ladies and gentlemen.
First of all, I would like to express my sincere respect to Madame Ambassador Elzbieta Smulkova, as a person who has greatly contributed to the establishment of relations between independent Belarus and Poland, and today continues to help in such a difficult struggle of the Belarusians not only in establishing the principles of democracy and freedom in Belarus, but unfortunately, again in preserving the independence of my country.
Today a new stage is taking place before our eyes, an epochal stage for the history not only of our countries Belarus and Poland, but also for the whole of Europe, for the whole world.
It has recently occurred to me that today we are once again struggling for a civilizational choice, for the right of development or the right of degradation and decline.
We, Belarusians, have often heard from our European partners about the priority of human rights and freedoms, about the importance of building states on the principles of democracy. I am sure that in this hall of one of Europe’s leading universities, no one would object to this approach.
But what is happening today.
Belarusians die at the hands of a dictator, they are tortured in prisons, persecuted no longer for their actions, but only for their desire to live by the principles of a free society. Ukrainians are dying in a terrible war. Europe calculates the amount it must pay for freedom, for peace.
Do the Belarusians want to die? No. Do Ukrainians want to die? No. Does Europe want to pay for the freedom of the Ukrainian and Belarusian people? Europe is still counting the money. Maybe it’s time, as it may sound now, for Ukrainians and Belarusians to teach Europe what human rights and freedoms are?
"Belarus is not Lukashenko."
This was one of the headlines of the lecture by the esteemed Ambassador.
Let me try to paraphrase it based on what is happening today.
Crimea is Ukraine and Belarus is not Russia.
Why is this so?
Ukraine is fighting for independence and its territorial integrity. And Belarus today is on the verge of losing its independence.
Belarus today is a country occupied by Russia. Not through military action. But Russian troops, which are on the territory of Belarus today, are out of control of the Belarusian people. We are occupied informationally, ideologically and politically.
At the head of Belarus is a puppet government led by dictator Lukashenko, which exclusively executes the will of the Kremlin. Today, Belarus still has its borders on the map and a flag at the UN. But tomorrow it will be annexed by Russia if… If?
If the Europeans make another strategic mistake and start trading political prisoners in exchange for the lifting of sanctions, if they do not apply similar sanctions to Lukashenko’s regime, who is the biggest smuggler of the XXI century, as to Russia.
I also agree with President Zelenski, why do we need such a UN, if we have to fight with weapons for peace?
Why do we need the UN Convention against Torture when it’s two years already and not a single citizen of Belarus can get justice even within the legal systems of European countries? Why do we need the Human Rights Council if it has prolonged its mandate to collect evidence of the regime’s crimes against the Belarusians for another year? Two years were not enough? Do we need another year? And then another year, and will there be time for justice?
Why do we need UNESCO when Director-General Mrs. Azoulay does not even think it necessary to answer the appeal of three Nobel laureates from Belarus, Ukraine and Russia concerning the fact that there are 80 political prisoners of culture in Belarusian jails?
We are facing not only a civilizational choice, but the task of a complete overhaul of the security system and the efficiency of a huge number of international servants.
Belarus is not Lukashenko. Lukashenko has been ruling the country for 28 years. Lukashenko started killing his political opponents back in the 90s. "Death squads," the disappearance of former Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Gonchar, former Interior Minister Yury Zakharenko, journalists, and businessmen. He was constantly escalating repression and bargaining with the West.
In 2020 he went again to kill citizens, during this period 50 thousand Belarusians were arrested, thousands more went through violence and torture, 1200 political prisoners are now in Belarus and it is a European record, the capture of the civil plane "RyanAir", the hybrid war against the EU using migrants whom he drove to the border, he has introduced the death penalty for attempted crimes, almost all independent media have been liquidated, 300 non-governmental organizations were closed, and now the regime is an aggressor in the war against Ukraine.
Often meeting with top politicians I have been asking them the same question lately: what more must the dictator do to make you understand that only tough, one-time sanctions, criminal prosecution and complete international isolation are the least the world can do to end the era of tyranny in Belarus?
Or is everyone waiting for him, along with Putin, to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus?
Someone will say that the Belarusians have exaggerated expectations. I answer, then in Europe there is an underestimated desire to use the available capabilities.
Are the 631 missiles launched from the territory of Belarus against Ukraine not enough as well? How many do we need — 632? Are we really going to count them?
Belarus is not Lukashenko. As I was leaving the Kupalovsky Theater in August 2020, I told myself and everyone who gathered there that it was important for us to remember: we are not the opposition, we are the majority.
Only our country’s future depends on us, not on Europe, not on the West.
But today, it is not only Belarus that faces the challenges of the future. Back in 2020, I told my European colleagues — this is a test for the entire Europe, for efficiency, for priorities, for readiness to uphold values. This test today concerns not only the example of Belarus, but the future of the European continent.
There are people who write their name in history, but we know for sure that you have not only written your name, but also made the history of independent Belarusian-Polish relations.
Thank you that you are still with us in the fight for values — for your and our freedom.
My heartfelt thanks for your attention.
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