• Georgia Skuza

An Interview with Margarita: Belarusian Activist Part II

Updated: Apr 8

Margarita, a Belarusian Activist, has been an activist for the Belarusian people and has been actively speaking out against the current dictatorship for six months.

In a two-part interview conducted by Editor-in-Chief and contributing writer Georgia Skuza through The Digital Voice, Margarita provides a firsthand account of the atrocities committed by the Belarusian government in light of the invasion of Ukraine.

Part II: Belarus and the Invasion of Ukraine

Q: What is your assessment of Belarusian public opinion about the war in Ukraine, and about Belarus’ role as a staging area for the Russian military?

Margarita: “I think that most people in Belarus do not want this war. The other small percent are the people whose main informational source is a government channel, mainly older people. Additionally, Belarusians are ashamed of their government for using our land as a staging area for the Russian military.”

Q: Do Belarusians resent losing their sovereignty to Russia, or do they support the Russian cause?

Margarita: “I would say that a very good portion of Belarusians are “neutral” and they are simply given up and used to the dictatorship. I would say that most people in Belarus conveniently ignore what’s happening because they don’t want their “stability” to shake up. However, that doesn’t mean that they are pro Putin and Lukashenko. Of course no one wants Belarus to become part of Russia and/or be so highly influenced by Russia. As I said before, the only people who are pro Putin and Lukashenko are the older generations.”

Q: How would you describe a Belarus-Russia relationship?

Margarita: “Belarus is doubtlessly very influenced by Russia. 42% of Belarusian exports are to Russia and 57% of imports are from Russia. This is data from the CIA.gov from 2019. Russia is Belarus’s biggest partner. It is very sad but Putin is helping Lukashenko stay in power because it is convenient for him right now. If he no longer needs him, Lukashenko will be easily replaced. I believe that Lukashenko barely has any power in Belarus. He calls himself president but he is nothing but a puppet.”

Q: Is Belarus a sovereign state when it comes to its relationship with Russia?

Margarita: “No, as I said before, Belarus’s main partner is Russia. We can call it a separate country, and officially it is, but it is so highly influenced by Russia that anyday Putin wants to replace Lukashenko he will. That is how I see it. We don’t have a good leader.

How do Belarusians feel about this relationship? Most people hate this relationship. It is degrading to think that our culture is dying and we can’t help it and our pitiful “leader” Lukashenko cannot stand up to Putin to fix it.”

Q: Why do you think Russia attacked Ukraine?

Margarita: “There are many theories, but I can swear that the reason Putin gave the world is not the real reason. He said that he wants to save the Russian speakers in Donbass, but he also said that he wasn’t going to attack Ukraine. I think it is obvious now that there’s no point in believing anything Putin says. In my personal opinion, Putin wants to bring back the USSR for some reason. Maybe this sounds crazy, but let us not forget that a sane man wouldn’t attack innocent people in the first place.”

Q: Could you speak about the effects of sanctions imposed on Belarus for supporting Russia?

Margarita: “I don’t live in Belarus so I wasn’t affected by it and I don’t really understand what it’s like but something that my family has faced is lack of medicine. It is harder and more expensive to find the foreign medicine that my grandma needs, so my aunt bought half a year worth of it just in case.”

Q: Is Belarus being included in the economic sanctions that other countries are imposing on Russia?

Margarita: “Yes, but not all. Compared to Russia, they are minimal.”

Q: Do you think that Belarusian troops will join the invasion, and what would that mean for Belarus and its people?

Margarita: “I used to think they would because my cousin who is 21 years old who is in the reserves got a call to show up to be drafted out of the blue right after the war started. However, today it is very unlikely that Belarusian troops will join. There are rumors that some generals quit their positions because they’re against it but I don’t know how true it is. Also, there is a whole Belarusian squad who went to Mariupol to fight on Ukraine’s side. Some even died in battle already.”

Q: What kind of consequences are you facing or expecting?

Margarita: “I do get some hate from people in the comments wishing me dead and wishing all of Belarus and Russia dead. People around the world need to understand that Belrusian propaganda is not nearly as bad as Russian. Most people in Belarus understand that this war is bad and Putin is not saving anyone. I am not saying that Russian people are at fault either but it is crazy how many of my friends from Russia blame the west instead of blaming their government. However, I think they are simply victims of some of the best propaganda in the world. Anyway, I do get some hate from people thinking that I support this war and since I’m from Belarus and/or speak Russian I support Russia, but that is not true. I want the world to know that 90% of Belarusian people are trapped by the dictator and they do not want this war and do not support Putin. People ≠ the government. Trust me, if it was so easy to overthrow a dictatorship, we would have already done it. This is the most important message.”

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