IA. Here’s an interview with Cyborg, Belarusian activist based on Warsaw’s Przychodnia squat for 3 years now. He talks briefly about last events and the revolt against Lukashenko’s regime.
Please start with a short introduction to the massive protest which has sparked in the last few days and why it happened right now?
Cy. Lukashenko rules for 26 years now. Fair, democratic elections were held just once, in 1994 and then he won. Any next was a fraud. After each one the opposition was going out on the streets, but there was no support from the entire society. The situation changed as we have strong economic crisis. The fringe won with TV set. The propaganda doesn’t work anymore. A new generation without a soviet slave mentality has grown up. A lot of people travel to Poland and to other European countries. They are experiencing the difference and they don’t want another 5 years of slavery. They’re just fed up. In addition, at start protests were peaceful, but authorities started grinding it with full force straight away. They opened fire the first night. First blood, first death at first night. Now people are forced to defend themselves.
IA. Do you think that cutting off the Internet paradoxically led masses on the streets?
Cy. I don’t think people have nothing to do so they go on the streets because there’s no Internet. It limited the communication and coordination, indeed. People are trying to bypass that. They learn how to use VPN, and Psiphon app helps a lot. There’s still problem with speed but it’s possible to text.
IA. There is info that some police/army units are joining the people. How common is that?
Cy. I know only 2-3 examples when policemen refused the crime of beating unarmed protestors. Yesterday one took off the helmet and went away. Today two other gave up their job. These are the only examples I know. Others are situations when police lowered their shields and didn’t do anything, but it was because they were expecting backup from other cities. I don’t know about examples of joining the people by the police.
IA. What is the role of anarchist/antifascist movement?
Cy. I know that people from the movement are taking part in protests. Others are distributing info materials about self-organization, how to behave in riots and in case of arrest. But it is not a key role in the revolt.
IA. What are the potential threats (political and economical) from Russia/EU that Belarus have to face in the nearest future?
Cy. I think UE will impose sanctions on Lukashenko and his entourage again. It happened after 2006, 2010 elections, but it didn’t make the regime milder as it didn’t help with repressions towards citizens. Lukashenko’s relation with Russia has never been worse. I think Putin will exploit the situation and will make Lukashenko even more dependent.
IA. How the situation looks like right now?
Cy. There are riots in many cities. In Minsk people are trying to raise barricades. Police are using full force, they terrorize everyone that is on the streets; they damage cars, beat and wound people; they don’t let people gather in the neighborhoods; police shoot at the windows from where people raise their shouts. Because jails are already overcrowded they can’t detain people so they deliberately beat up and wound people. They often shoot people that are lying on the ground after they have beaten them. People try to defend themselves; people try to free those being captured by the police during protest. Sometimes they manage to chase off police squads. The situation is different in each city. In Brest people are well organized and grouped. In Grodno they didn’t succeed to gather. In small towns people often outnumber the police so they can’t be that brutal. Lukashenko assured the police that they would be legally protected and would gain immunity so police and troop are extremely aggressive.
IA. Please add anything you wish
Cy. There has never been such a massive mobilization against a dictator in the modern history of Belarus. 09.08.2020 was the critical point for the country. It’s hard to predict anything now. It is almost impossible to win with an enemy that is well trained and use any means necessary. General strike could be a good weapon. Few factories and workplaces are on strike already. I hope the whole country will join in upcoming days. Both authorities and the people compare the experience with Iran and Hong Kong. Police are using ambulances to bring their forces as close to the protesters as possible. People are using lasers to blind the police so they can’t shoot properly, setting up barricades. They try to make their limited forces resist by constantly changing convergence points. They use apps like Telegram to coordinate and inform each other. There is unprecedented solidarity among the people. The nation woke up. Now or never. Жыве Беларусь!