Window of change may open in Belarus, opposition must be ready – Lithuania's MEP

  • 2023-05-15

VILNIUS, May 15, BNS – As Belarusian regime leader Alexander Lukashenko's health deteriorates, a window of change may open in Belarus and democratic forces must be ready to take over power, says Lithuanian Social Democrat Juozas Olekas who leads the EP's delegation for relations with Belarus.

"Time might come in Belarus when the regime changes and new forces are needed to lead Belarus down the path of democracy. The Belarusian people do not support the regime, they are just oppressed and cannot change it, but if something changes, the democratic forces in Belarus must be ready for both new elections and taking over power," Olekas told reporters at the Lithuanian Seimas on Monday after a meeting with lawmakers and representatives of the Belarusian opposition.

Speaking about possible scenarios related to Lukashenko's health, Olekas noted that if the regime was left without its leader, the situation would change fundamentally. But one should also not forget Russian President Vladimir Putin's factor as he's seeking to maintain his influence, he said.

"We can see very clearly that since 2020, Lukashenko has chosen a very clear path to stay in power, helped by Russia's power, and all the deployment of Russian troops and the shelling of Ukrainian territory from Belarus are just to keep him in power. (...) Of course, Putin would like to have a union state and to maintain his influence on this territory," Olekas said.

Also speaking at the pres conference, Alexander Dobrovolsky, an adviser to Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, said it was necessary to prepare for a situation when the regime would be left without its key leader. The opposition's task, he said, would be to prepare for new elections, to ensure economic stability and to do this by negotiating with people in the government who would understand that Belarus was in crisis and who would be interested in getting out of that crisis.

The situation in Belarus is complicated not only because of the government's legitimacy but also because of the threat to independence, Dobrovolsky said.

"We know that Putin is not going to sit and look at what is going on in Belarus, without doing something against the democratic or European choice of Belarus. Our task is to mobilize people for the protection of our independence to receive support from the international community and to ask our military forces not to be a part of Russian aggression or not to be a part of repressions against protesters because people will protest, if we see that independence is under threat," the advisor said.

Asked what information he had about Lukashenko's health, the Belarusian opposition representative said the true situation is being kept secret even from regime members, adding that the opposition has information that it’s causing dissatisfaction.

Lukashenko felt unwell last week during the Soviet Victory Day celebrations in Moscow. A medical team was called in and he was rushed to Minsk.

Lukashenko has hardly been seen in public since early May and recently visited the presidential clinic. Based on media reports, Lukashenko has endocrine and heart problems. Moreover, professors have reportedly flown in from Moscow to treat Lukashenko.