Sannikov tries to maintain political autonomy
Andrei Sannikov’s team seeks to preserve political autonomy and to establish an independent political emigration center. This process is complicated by still unclear Sannikov’s public policy objectives and by the lack of support from the rest of the Belarusian opposition forces, who have already recognized the Rada of the Belarusian People’s Republic as a focal point for political forces in immigration.
On November 13th, in an interview with the Belarusian service of “Radio Liberty”, the former Presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov said that his representative was not allowed in negotiations concerning elaboration of the so-called “Vilnius Memorandum” of the Belarusian opposition. He also described the document as unprofessional and threatening the Belarus’ independence.
According to Sannikov, a representative of “European Belarus” civil campaign, which he heads, was not invited to discuss the ‘Vilnius memorandum’, a document signed by 12 opposition forces on November 3rd in Vilnius. A number of actors also signed the memorandum post factum. Mr. Sannikov expressed a number of comments about the document and in the end he refused to sign it. Later, BNR Chairwoman Iwonka Survilla said, that an invitation to the meeting had been sent to Sannikov’s group, along with a draft Memorandum for discussion.
Most likely, the conflict between the “European Belarus” and the BNR is deeper and not related to organizational issues of the meeting in Vilnius or professionalism of the Memorandum authors. Since the signed Memorandum recognizes the NBR’s exceptional legitimacy as a Belarusian authorities’ body until the fall of the Lukashenko regime, it would be logical to explain Sannikov’s refusal to sign it by that his group has plans to create an alternative government in exile.
In the meanwhile, “European Belarus” has not yet proposed any positive programme for political action and limits itself to criticism of their colleagues in the opposition. At the same time, the majority of the “European Belarus” activists have already left Belarus, in particular, Mr. Bondarenko (Sannikov’s trustee) and Mr. Atroshchankau (Sannikov’s former press secretary). The “European Belarus’” best-known project is a socio-political website “Charter 97”.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.