We have no illusions, but we move forward regardless
31 August 2020, 21:29 | Elena Tolkacheva, TUT.BY
The Coordinating Council says there’s pressure on the Presidium and all Council members, but does not plan to stop and continues to call on the authorities to join the dialogue. The members of the presidium – Pavel Latushka, Maryia Kalesnikava and Maxim Znak made this announcement during a press conference.
Pavel Latushka said that the detention of Lilia Vlasova, a member of the Presidium of the Coordination Council, has certain “symbolism” because authorities detained a woman who for decades had been building the institution of mediation in the country in order to find ways out of difficult situations.
“We believe that these actions of law enforcement agencies are yet another form of pressure on the entire Coordination Council and are politically motivated. The goal is to disorganize the Coordination Council. These actions, in our opinion, indicate that the authorities are not interested in maintaining a dialogue and finding a way out of the situation the country is in through dialogue,” Pavel Latushka said.
Maryia Kalesnikava believes that the strategy chosen first by Viktar Babaryka’s campaign, and later adopted by the Coordination Council – to act only within the legal framework – is successful. A mere two weeks ago the current president did not even want to hear about the possibility of dialogue, whereas now he himself says that a dialogue is needed, and yesterday his representative even came out to the people and also spoke about dialogue.
“They already know my name, but they are not yet ready for a dialogue. That’s OK, we are patient, we can wait. And the second point: amendments to the Constitution are being brought up now yet again. We believe that this is precisely because of our strategy and the pressure of civil society on the authorities.”
When asked what the Coordinating Council will do if all members of the Presidium get imprisoned, Maryia Kalesnikava answered that today all Belarusians are under such pressure.
“As for what we will do if we all get imprisoned? Today, 9 million Belarusians are in a situation when each of us can be jailed at any time. The thing is, our victory was in the fact that we realized that we are free citizens of Belarus and we want a new life. We are ready to bear that responsibility and go towards that new life, one step at a time. We have no illusions about what the authorities can do, but we’ve conquered our fear and we are moving forward,” said Kalesnikava.
Maxim Znak noted that it is not yet clear what the constitutional reform Aleksander Lukashenko is talking about now will be.
“We do not know what kind of reform we are talking about, but we have been talking about it since 2016. Today we heard that there is already a third version of the Constitution. If the planned version of the Constitution will be presented, then we can discuss what problems it can solve. But, most likely, this will not be the constitutional reform that the presidential candidates talked about during the campaign,” Znak said.
Pavel Latushka noted that the Coordination Council is convinced that the authorities are currently writing a scenario for the most negative development of the situation.
“We have a deep internal political crisis that can be resolved through dialogue, but the authorities say they are not willing to engage in a dialogue. Because today these are only declarations, there are no real actions. And if there will be real action, we assume it will be a pseudo-dialogue, and we’ve already been through that. If we are talking about the foreign policy factor, then Belarus has already been factually disavowed as an international partner in the world arena, with the exception of a number of states. That is, today, the words spoken by the representatives of Belarus will not be trusted neither in the EU nor in the countries that have joined the EU’s statements. This will entail questions in regards to Belarus' negotiability. The third factor is economic, we must assert that we are already in a deep economic crisis,” said Latushka.
Pavel Latushka also believes that today and in its current composition, the Belarusian government is unable to propose an anti-crisis plan. And even if such a plan forms, it should be built on the principles and elements that, in Latushka’s opinion, do not correspond to the general strategy of the government.
“If such a plan appears, it will probably be unpopular among Belarusians, because it will most likely need to limit budget spending on various social programs,” Latushka said.
According to Latushka, one of the most pressing issues today is creating a social movement on the basis of the Coordination Council.
“The question of the legitimacy of the Coordination Council as an institution is often raised. We should probably think about creating a registered social movement, which should include representatives of various social groups, in order to demonstrate to the authorities that there is an entity to negotiate with. We, the Council, are constantly told: you are illegitimate, you do not represent anyone, you represent the crowd, you represent the outcasts, the drug addicts. So, we need to show that this is indeed a legally valid force. Naturally, the authorities will do everything to make sure this public organization is not registered, which will again mean refusal to engage in dialogue. This will be another step to deepening the crisis,” said Pavel Latushka.
According to Maxim Znak, there are four thousand people in the expanded Coordination Council at the moment, and another ten thousand people have applied to join the Council.
What is the criminal case brought against the Coordination Council?
On 20 August, Prosecutor General Aliaksandr Kaniuk said that the creation and activities of the Coordination Council are aimed at seizing state power, as well as harming the national security of the Republic of Belarus.
On this basis, a criminal case was initiated under Art. 361 of the Criminal Code. The Main Investigation Department of the Central Office of the Investigative Committee has accepted to process a criminal case on the grounds of a crime under Part 3 of Art. 361 of the Criminal Code on the fact of public calls for the seizure of state power or the commission of actions aimed at causing harm to the national security of Belarus, committed using the mass media or the global computer network “Internet”.
Earlier, the Investigative Committee summoned members of the Coordination Council Maxim Znak, Siarhei Dyleuski, Lilia Vlasava and Pavel Latushka for questioning in connection to the criminal case under Art. 361. They gave their testimonies, but because of a non-disclosure agreement they could not provide more details. Summoned Council members are serving as case witnesses.
Two members of the Presidium, Volha Kavalkova and Siarhei Dyleuski, were detained on 24 August by the entrance of MTZ (Minsk Tractor Works factory). On 25 August they were convicted under Articles 23.34 and 23.4 of the Administrative Code and given 10 days of arrest.
What is the Coordination Council?
On 14 August, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who is currently in Lithuania, initiated the creation of a Coordination Council for the transfer of power in Belarus. She stated that the Council is necessary to establish a dialogue with the authorities and ensure the transfer of power. It included representatives of civil society, cultural figures, doctors, politicians, lawyers, economists, and teachers.
The Presidium of the Council includes Svetlana Aleksievich, Lilia Vlasava, Siarhei Dyleuski, Maxim Znak, Volha Kavalkova, Maryia Kalesnikava, Pavel Latushka.
Before the initiation of the criminal case, the Council managed to hold one meeting and gave two press conferences, during which the council members stressed several times that the Coordination Council does not intend to seize power in an unconstitutional manner.
After the initiation of the criminal case, the Сouncil sent official appeals to the General Prosecutor’s Office, the Investigative Committee, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the KGB (Committee of State Security) demanding urgent meetings to discuss “the demands of the majority of Belarusian citizens as stated in the [Council] resolution.”