VILNIUS – The protests against Alexander Lukashenko's regime are also sending a message to the Kremlin which will remain the last dictator on the European continent if efforts to organize a democratic election in Belarus are successful, participants of an international conference said in Vilnius on Monday.
The conference was named after Konstantinas Kalinauskas, known in Poland as Konstanty Kalinowski, leader of national revival in Poland, Lithuania and Belarus and one of the commanders of the 1863–1864 uprising against Tsarist Russia.
"A new page of history is opening and Belarus has contributed to it; its name will be inscribed in history. And that page will close when both tyrannies – in Belarus and Russia – close," Vytautas Landsbergis, Lithuania's first post-independence leader, told a news conference.
What is happening in Belarus now is a "catastrophe" for Russian President Vladimir Putin, too, which poses a threat because it is not clear how he can react, he said.
What is very important is that changes in Belarus have derailed the Kremlin's plans to incorporate the country into Russia, according to Landsbergis.
Vladimir Kara-Murza, vice-chairman of the Open Russia Foundation, said the popular saying in the West that Lukashenko is Europe's last dictator is not true.
"Lukashenko is the last but one in the dominoes. And if he falls, then the Kremlin will remain the last one," the Russian opposition politician said.
The leaders of Russia and Belarus are dependent on each other because their behavior is similar in many ways.
"The Kremlin is well aware that just as the streets and squares of Minsk and other Belarusian cities are filled with thousands of people today, that horror awaits them in the future and they are very afraid of that," he said.
Summing up the conference, Lithuanian MP Zygimantas Pavilionis, one of its organizers, said that holding a new, democratic election is understood as the key goal in Belarus.
He hopes that the conference, attended by representatives of many countries and international organizations, will bring together people who will take practical steps to make this aspiration a reality.
Anais Marin, the UN special rapporteur on Belarus, said that while nobody doubts that Belarus is facing the challenge of consolidating democracy and carrying out reforms, there are questions as to the extent of other countries' involvement.
"We don't necessarily agree on what would be the most ideal solution for Belarus in terms of interference or non-interference," she said.
Vilnius is hosting the Kalinauskas forum on Belarus' future for the first time.
The forum is expected to become the main platform for Belarusian dissidents to express their opinions, produce joint strategies to fight Russia's aggression in the region and restore democracy in Belarus, the Institute of International Relations and Political Science at Vilnius University has said in a statement.