BHHRG

About BHHRG

The British Helsinki Human Rights Group monitors human rights and democracy in the 57 OSCE member states from the United States to Central Asia.
* Monitoring the conduct of elections in OSCE member states.
* Examining issues relating to press freedom and freedom of speech
* Reporting on conditions in prisons and psychiatric institutions

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Belarus: Brokeback Revolution - the Candidates (Continuation)
HITS: 2193 | 10-02-2006, 17:56 | Commentaire(s): (0) |
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Three candidates challenged the incumbent, Alexander Lukashenko, for the presidency. Sergei Gaidukevich (who had stood previously in 2001), former Minsk University rector Alexander Kozulin and Alexander Milinkevich. However, local oppositionists and the Western media gave the impression that Milinkevich was the only opposition candidate always dubbing him the ‘united’ opposition candidate. Therefore, is was perplexing to many people who told BHHRG that they had never heard of Mr. Milinkevich before he put forward his candidacy for the top job.

Milinkevich: The Jack-in-a-box Candidate?

Visiting the headquarters of the Belarussian Popular Front three weeks before the poll this Group’s observers found the activists busy preparing to distribute campaign literature and free newspapers (like Narodnaya Volya) on behalf of Alexander Milinkevich remarkably ill-informed about his past and personality. Repeatedly, they replied to questions about what they knew about Dr. Milinkevich with stock replies like “He is the candidate of the unified opposition” and could not explain what personal qualities or aspects of his career had led the “unified opposition” to choose him.
Glasnost is not a feature of Dr. Milinkevich’s campaign. His website provides meagre data about his life, especially before 1991. Although he travelled abroad in the Soviet period – unlike Mr Lukashenko – to the University of Montpellier in France in 1980 when Comrade Brezhnev’s iron-hand still gripped the country, Dr. Milinkevich’s official CV makes no reference to membership of the Komsomol or Communist Party, usually prerequisites for visiting the fleshpots of the West. He also spent four years in Algeria (1980-84). No-one in Minsk among opposition supporters or their critics could answer whether the “unified opposition” candidate had been a Communist Party member in the totalitarian period, but it is intriguing that Milinkevich’s campaign manager, Sergei Kalyakin is also First Secretary of the Party of Belarussian Communists! Although Western journalists routinely regale their readers with allegations that Lukashenko is a “Stalinist” nostalgic running a “totalitarian” society, in reality the Belarussian president is disliked by the Communist-era elite.
En masse the beneficiaries of Brezhnev’s corrupt regime which did so much to discredit socialism in the USSR have rallied to Western-sponsored candidates at each Belarussian election – only to see them rejected by the voters as Prime Minister Vyacheslav Kebich was in 1994. Sergei Kalyakin isn’t the only ex-Communist standing behind the “pro-Western” candidate. Red Army general Valery Frolov was prominent in the opposition ranks. Vitali Silitski currently a Reagan-Fascell democracy fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy in the United States denounced Lukashenko for removing the Brezhnev-era Politburo member Piotr Masherov from one of Minsk’s main avenues and attributed this iconoclasm as the cause of Masherov’s daughter’s public opposition to Lukashenko.[1] These children of the nomenklatura see Alexander Lukashenko as the usurper of their rightful position as the bosses of Belarussian society. As the President pointed out at his press conference after the election, he created the “new system” and they “ONI”, the “Them” of the Soviet days, cannot forgive him. Given that Washington’s new darling in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel, was Agitation Secretary of the East German equivalent of the Komsomol before 1989 in her East Berlin workplace, Communist activism in the totalitarian past seems not only not to be a bar to promotion but it may in fact be a requirement for the New World Order.
Already in 1990, Dr. Milinkevich crossed from physics to politics and was appointed deputy mayor of his home town, Grodno, under the former Communist apparatchik, Semyon Domash. Mr. Domash had been unceremoniously dumped as a potential opposition candidate in 2001 when the “US International Republican Institute was asked to do new polls and analyse other opinion data in Belarus. The US analysts found there was no obvious figure to challenge Mr. Lukashenko. The Americans then switched funding away from Semyon Domash, an opposition leader they had previously supported…” [2]
In the weeks leading up to the March 2006 poll Milinkevich was feted by the European Union in both Brussels and Strasbourg. He was also provided with a plethora of web sites too numerous to cite: For instance, under his name alone his campaign web site lists this “Interesting Fact: you can find our site under all these addresses: milinkevich.org, milinkevich.net, milinkevichu.net, milinkievic.com, milinkievic.org, milinkievic.net, milinkevic.org, milinkevic.net, milinkevic.com, milin2006.org, milin2006.net, milin2006.com”.[3]
This Group has repeatedly observed how in several countries the official Western media have sung the praises of the “single” opposition candidate, declaring him to be the people’s darling, only to drop him when he fails either to win the election or carry through the “people power revolution.” For instance, who remembers the West’s favourites contesting Slovakia’s Vladimir Mečiar in the 1990s or even who was the NATO states’ preferred candidate for that country’s presidency in April, 2004 - the Communist-era ambassador to Mengistu’s Ethiopia, Edvard Kukan. However, Slovak premier, Mikulas Dzurinda, has remained loyal to his sponsors acting as mentor to a flock of “People Power” look-alikes since coming to power in 1998.
The ultra-bland Dzurinda openly boasts about his role in coordinating similar “people power” revolutionaries from the Balkans and the former Soviet Union: “Last year, near the square where we lit candles, I introduced a special group of people to President Bush” he writes “These were civic leaders who championed freedom in their homelands. These were men and women who came from countries from the Baltic to the Black seas, from Georgia to Serbia and Montenegro, and, yes, from Belarus. Later today Bush and I will talk about this meeting.”[4]
Dzurinda assured the readers the Washington Post that “people of all ages will be wearing blue denim, the symbol of hope for a modern, European Belarus”[5], but who below the age of 58 believes that denim is a symbol of radicalism anymore even in Gomel? It was striking that in a photograph of Dr. Milinkevich attending a rock concert only the candidate and his wife were draped in denim.[6]
Dr. Milinkevich proved a weak and uninspiring candidate. Even the ultra-Orange Ukrainian Channel 5 TV coverage could not do much to boost his campaign. On 13th March, it reported that three Ukrainian nationalists had been arrested for waving Ukrainian flags at a rally addressed by Milinkevich but what was striking to the viewer was the paltry attendance for the “unified opposition candidate” even allowing for the cold and snow.[7]
Belatedly, in his programme published in the days before the election Milinkevich tried populism. In this, he followed precedents set by Western-backed candidates from Slovakia to Serbia, Georgia to Ukraine, in which these supposedly “pro-market” candidates have repeatedly made populist promises to the electorate assuring voters that if elected their land will flow with milk and honey and be awash with Western aid. Yet, at the same time, they assure Westerners that they will follow strict monetarist criteria, shock therapy and the gamut of World Bank mandated measures which have produced collapse in production and employment from the Balkans to the Baltics.
Dr. Milinkevich’s programme held out a similar rosy prospect picturing a post-Lukashenko bonanza:
“10. A Prosperous Belarus: Today we know very well how to survive, but we do not know how to really live. In our new Belarus, people know the taste of a fulfilling lifestyle, without humiliating salaries and pensions, without unpredictable inflation.
The labor market is developing quickly. A monthly income of 500 euros to 700 euros has become the average. Pensions provide an income sufficient to cover $200 to $300 [dollars in original] in monthly costs. The state and community are actively helping the unemployed to gain new knowledge and qualifications, successfully overcoming the crisis caused by job loss. When a person able and willing to work is not employed, the state assumes the cost of support and healthcare for his or her children. We care for our veterans, the disabled and our children.”
Whether all these goodies can be paid for “without unpredictable inflation” must be doubted. Indeed, the inflationary consequences of the programme are all too predictable particularly if the candidate’s speeches abroad are taken into account.
Dr. Milinkevich has told both West European and Russian audiences that one of his priorities is to end Belarus’s import of cheap oil and gas from Russia.[8] The experience of neighbouring Ukraine shows what happens when “pro-market” politicians sacrifice the national economic interest to dogmatic market fundamentalism to please their Western sponsors.
Another problem was the perception – certainly fostered by Belarussian media – that Milinkevich was more concerned with winning approval in Western capitals than votes at home. His Polish roots too suggested that he was more concerned with approval from a neighbouring nation notoriously snobbish and dismissive of the “peasants” of Belarus once ruled by Polish pans or landlords.
This combination of neo-colonial deference to the Western great powers combined with indifference to the reality of disenfranchisement of ethnic Russians in Latvia and Estonia – well-known to Belarussians – was exploited by Mr Lukashenko who queried whether an opposition victory would lead to the kind of disenfranchisement of ethnic Russians seen in Estonia or Latvia.
Without a clearly preferable economic model and consorting with foreigners who were notoriously anti-Russian – a xenophobia not shared by Belarussians – Milinkevich was courting a tiny share of the popular vote. Maybe he exhausted the potential of the pool of voters likely to back shock therapy, high fuel prices and anti-Russian nationalism.

Kozulin: Spoiler, Splitist or Bad-Cop Good Cop Routine?

Alexander Kozulin is regarded as once having been a regime insider until he was unceremoniously sacked as rector of the Belarusian State University in 2003 after a wide ranging corruption investigation. When he put himself forward as a presidential candidate three years later on behalf of the Social Democratic Gromada movement, he was dismissed by the new totalitarians in the West as irrelevant or even mischievous because there was only one “unified opposition candidate”. For instance, Condoleeza’s Rice’s point man for Belarus, Dan Fried, didn’t even mention Kozulin when he told a press conference at the State Department in early February, “"Our position is not to pick winners. Our position is to do what we can to promote a free and fair election,"…. "It is also true that the Belarusian opposition has united around Milinkevich."[9] Perhaps Fried et al. were made uneasy by the obvious fact that Kozulin was going to have much higher voter recognition that Milinkevich and could even ‘spoil the party’.
BHHRG interviewed Dr. Kozulin’s campaign manager, Miecheslav Hryb, in February 2006 in the pre-election period. Hryb a former lieutenant-general of the Soviet militia (police) was chairman of the Belarussian Supreme Soviet and acting head of state in 1993 [10] But that was before the outsider, Alexander Lukashenko, shot to power on the back of a popular surge against the old nomenklatura presenting itself as the natural rulers of Belarus in the New World Order. Since then, Hryb has harboured a deep dislike for the ‘upstart’ president (whom he described to BHHRG as a “vulgar Socialist”) and actively campaigned for his opponents.
Hryb confirmed that Dr. Kozulin had a “higher public profile” than Dr. Milinkevich and, at that time, he also seemed to be campaigning more actively than the ‘unified candidate’ although much of his activity seemed to involve making complaints to the Central Election Commission and the Procuracy over meetings allegedly disrupted or cancelled by the authorities. As election day drew closer, Mr. Kozulin threw himself ever more dramatically into confrontation with the authorities by bursting into a meeting held by Lukashneko loyalists and later stamping on the president’s photograph.
In fact, Mr. Hryb hinted that Kozulin might not remain in the race until the end if the “oppressive measures taken against him” didn’t stop. However, even though he almost went as far as asking the Central Election Commission chairwoman to block his candidacy she refused and he stayed in the race until the end.
Before Kozulin’s agit-prop antics stole the headlines, he was dismissed as a Lukashenko proxy and academic fraud. B23 told its readers as late as 17th February, “Alexander Kazulin (Kozulin) is a dark horse, a kind of pseudo-opposition, a player that will most probably be helping Lukashenka. For many years he’s been a president of the Belarusian State University, a loyal supporter of Lukashenka, an enemy of the students, and then after he’s been sacked he suddenly became an “opposition activist” and a democrat.” B23 reported, “Also there are rumors that Kazulin’s Ph.D. is plagiarized, being an exact replica of another Ph.D. thesis from some Moscow scientist.” [11]
When Lithuanian premier, Brazauskas met Kozulin, the totalitarian opposition went ballistic declaring “Lithuania secretly supports Lukashenko” because “Lithuanian Prime Minister, Algirdas Brazauskas, thought it possible to meet with the Byelorussian Social-Democrat presidential hopeful Alexander Kozulin in Vilnius…” In Pravda-speak of the bad old days, it went on, “It is not a secret in Lithuania that this hopeless hopeful is just supposed 'to split the opposition’ and to cut the chances of Lukashenko’s key rival Alexander Milinkevich. Now that Milinkevich has just been welcomed in Brussels by the EU foreign ministers and has been proclaimed by the EU as the only alternative to ‘dictator Lukashenko' as Byelorussian president, such a meeting of an EU prime minister with the 'puppet' of today's ruler of Byelorussia seems to many strange, if not symptomatic.” Brazauskas suggested that as leader of the ruling Lithuanian Social-Democratic Party (SDPL) it was normal for him and his party to “ support the Social-Democrats of Byelorussia and their candidate Alexander Kozulin.” Lithuania’s guardians of the true single path to democracy were outraged: “Why after all — wonder Lithuanian political scientists — does the ruling Lithuanian party support not the ‘western' candidate Milinkevich but 'some opposition splitter' and, in fact, Lukashenko servant Kozulin? And — what is more — makes this known to everybody?” Speaking openly obviously compounded Brazauskas’s crime in the eyes of Lithuania’s totalitarian watchdogs.
In a press-conference held on 30th January the leader of Lithuania’s conservative Pro Patria union, Andrius Kubilius, said: “Brazauskas is advertising himself that he has met not with the united opposition candidate Alexander Milinkevich but the united opposition splitting candidate, Social Democrat Kozulin. Thereby the Lithuanian premier is showing his support not for the united opposition but for those disuniting it.” “Alexander Lukashenko will have to commend Algirdas Brazauskas for that.”
But, perhaps, this meeting with the de facto “pro-Lukashenko” candidate was actually a coincidence? Kubilius says that today one can see a whole tendency of “quiet friendship with Lukashenko,” with one typical example being the defiance of the Lithuanian authorities to give the green-light to Byelorussian Humanitarian University, a higher school ousted by Lukashenko from Minsk. The university has moved to Vilnius, but the authorities there prevent it from getting official status. According to the leader of the Lithuanian conservative Pro Patria movement, Andrius Kubilius: “ …the education ministry bureaucrats are finding whatever stupefying arguments just not to legalize the university's status. In fact, our bureaucrats are zealously exercising the new concept of their relations with the Lukashenko regime: if Lukashenko does not like the university, we must not like it either.”
It is hardly comforting for us citizens of a “united Europe” to find that our co-rulers in the ex-Soviet east who now constitute such a large part of the European Commission, European Parliament and European judicial bodies find dissent so intolerable. When will they act to silence West Europeans who naively think that the incorporation of members of the old totalitarian elites from post-Communist Europe marked a victory for freedom and pluralism?
On 24th February, the opposition NGO, Charter 97 openly backed Milinkevich and cast doubt on Kozulin: “It is still unknown, who or what is standing behind Kazulin. We’d most like to believe that he is an independent figure, or at least he wants to become one.”[12]
However as Kozulin’s antics attracted more attention the Charter 97 website raised the possibility that Milenkevich and Kozulin were playing a good-cop bad cop routine. BHHRG noted that Kozulin activists in his Minsk HQ wore the same Milinkevich campaign lapel badge further supporting this allegation .
The Warsaw-based Stefan Batory Foundation which grew out of the pre-1989 Western-funded and organised pro-dissident group published its predictions on 14th March.[13] They dismissed Kozulin as pro-Russian: “It is still not entirely clear to what degree Kazulin [sic.] is an independent politician.” ‘Independent of whom?’ is always the real question but to ignore Kozulin’s rumbustious antics or to dismiss them as all a sham on behalf of Lukashenko seems to be taking conspiracy theory to new lows of absurdity. Batory quoted opinion polls giving Kozulin only 3% of the vote with Lukashenko on 55% and Milenkevich on 18%.
Kozulin was dangerously “cautious about the perspectives of Belarus’s EU integration, which may be considered a way to win Russia’s favour.” The SBF report suggested that “Kazulin wants to be perceived in the Kremlin as the best alternative to Lukashenka. [sic.]” A member of what he called the Menshevik fraction of the Belarussian Popular Front who was also an election observer for the Voters’ Group of Belarus told our observers that though he had supported the ultra-nationalist, Zamyon Paznyak inside the BPF, when the Bolshevik fraction which supported Milenkevich and his Communist campaign manager, Sergei Kalyakin, the Paznyak supporters switched their support to Kozulin as preferable even though he was regarded as Russophone and more likely to be acceptable to the Kremlin than a Pole with NATO-EU ambitions.
However, PubliusPundit’s main author on a website which presents itself as the New World Order’s “authorised version” backed Kozulin “given the EU’s recent declarations, and President Bush’s signing of the Belarus Democracy Act, not to mention Condi Rice’s declaration of Belarus as an outpost of tyranny, we clearly know where the United States and the EU are looking for another revolution.”[14]
Alexander Kozulin told the Group’s observers on the day before the polls that he had not been campaigning but had just returned from Ukraine the day before because he regarded it as pointless to campaign. That seems at odds with his combative actions earlier and suggests fatalism as much as any rejection of the fairness of the proceedings.

Sergei Gaydukevich

BHHRG also interviewed Sergei Gaydukevich who was ignored by the Western media when not being labelled a Lukashenko ‘front’. For example, the French website Le Courrier du Bélarus (modelled on the “humane interventionist” Courriers des Balkans) naturally has links only to pro-Milenkevich sources and didn’t even condescend to notice Mr Gaydukevich’s campaign.[15] In fact, he received more votes than Kozulin (3.5% against 2.3%). Gaydukevich told BHHRG that he could have been the ‘unified’ opposition candidate himself if he had been prepared to rubbish Belarus but although he claimed that there were problems to be addressed he admitted that much had been achieved. After all, the people have relatives in former Soviet republics like Ukraine and Georgia and are well aware of the situation there.
Gaydukevich’s party Republica is a member of the Liberal International and, therefore, ‘acceptable’ to Europe. However, he thought that the EU would have to change its tactics if it wanted to usher in a change of regime in Belarus. He said that he had no difficulties campaigning and had even written articles in the opposition media.


[1] See “A Partisan Reality Show” in Transitions on line (11th May, 2005). Mr Silitski has accused Lukashenko of being simultaneously Allende and Pinochet, thus satisfying Left and Right in America that he is a very bad man.,
[2] See Ian Traynor, “Belarussian foils dictator-buster... for now. Tested US foreign election strategy fails against Lukashenko” in The Guardian (14th September, 2001):
http://www.guardian. co.uk/ international/story/0,,551533,00.html.,
[3] See
http://en.milinkevich.org/,
[4] See Mikulas Dzurinda, “Light the Candles Of Belarus.Europe's Last Dictatorship Will Not Endure” in The Washington Post (13th March , 2006), Page A15,
[5] See
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/12/AR2006031201111.html,
[6] See photographs on the Charter 97 web-site.
[7] See News, Channel 5 (11.20pm, 13th March, 2005).,
[8] For instance, he indicated to BBC Radio 4’s “World Tonight” (2nd February, 2006) that “super-low gas prices” offered by Russia were an illegitimate form of “support for Lukashenko.” Even rich West Europeans might wonder whether fuel subsidies were such a bad idea when Sky News could report that 2 million households in Britain suffered “fuel poverty” because of soaring gas and electricity prices as this year’s bitter winter saw the market’s downside kick in with 40% price inflation for Britain which pioneered the sell-off of state energy generating assets. (3.52pm, 15th March, 2006).,
[9] See William C. Mann, “U.S. TO SPEND MILLIONS IN BELARUS TO ENSURE FREE, FAIR VOTING IN NEXT MONTH'S ELECTIONS” AP Worldstream, Wash, D.C. (Feb 08, 2006).,
[10] See
http://www.belarusguide.com/as/law_pol/belarusian_politics_1986-present.html.,
[11] See
http://www.br23.net/en/2006/02/17/milinkevich-is-registered/.,
[12] See
http://bhtimes.blogspot.com/2006/02/middle-east-special-mosc-bomb-nuclear.html.,
[13] See
http://www.euractiv.com/Article?tcmuri=tcm:29-153375-16&type=Analysis. This rapporteur used to smuggle cash for the SBF to Central Europe, or at least funds which came under its auspices.,
[14] See “A Candidate Appears in Belarus” (20th March, 2005):
http://www.publiuspundit.com/?p=702.,
[15]
http://belarus.courriers.info/sites.php3.

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