Major Belarusian Politicians Talk to Their Country Via New York Radio

Oct 15, 2013, 22:30 ET from Belarusians in Exile

NEW YORK, Oct. 15, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The opposition movement in the Republic of Belarus is virtually inexistent, as many political opponents of the current president Alexander G. Lukashenko are either in prison or in exile. Belarus, known in the media as the 'Last Dictatorship in Europe' is as close to "1984" novel by George Orwell as one can imagine: most of the democratic institutions, such as independent media, free elections, right to protest, have been dismantled during the two decades that Mr. Lukashenko has been in power.

However, Belarusian opposition figures have found an unlikely mechanism for voicing their views and opinions and talking to their supporters: a New York radio station. 87.7 FM, a Russian-language radio broadcaster, airs a weekly half-hour show dedicated to Belarus and hosted by Dima Shehigelsky, director of the New York-based NGO 'Belarusians in Exile'.

Despite the fact that the shows is aired in New York, it had become a favorite among the major Belarusian politicians and public figures alike, who stay up late at night to go on the air from Belarus via Skype. Mr. Shehigelsky says that originally he tried to use the landline, but usually after five minutes in the show the phone line went dead – most of the opposition figures' phones in Belarus are tapped.

It's hardly a surprise that the Belarusian state wants to ban politicians from appearing on the radio – the shows are immediately transcribed and published on the opposition websites in Belarus and around the world. And the guests who appear on the show carry a lot of political weight and are generally anti-Lukashenko.

In the fall of 2013, one of the guests, Alexander Feduta, former head of public affairs for Lukashenko turned opposition figure, said during the broadcast: "In order for the political elite in Belarus to start worrying, sanctions against the Lukashenko moneymen should be adopted and enforced." Targeted EU and US economic sanctions against Belarus, according to the EU experts, are the most effective mechanism to put pressure on the Lukashenko regime that gets most of its hard currency from selling oil and potash into the EU.

Another speaker, Alexander Dobrovolsky, member of the United Citizens Party of Belarus, said: "Formal statements don't work against Lukashenko. Stronger economic measures and sanctions should be taken so that the regime starts to react."

New York State is home to tens of thousands of Belarusians who left their country because of systematic violations of human rights and are valued by Belarusian politicians who hope that these people will one day vote for them: "Almost all of the Belarusians that I know will be happy to return home once the dictatorial regime is gone. Lukashenko has been in power for two decades. He will have to step down one day," believes Mr. Shehigelsky.

Belarusian radio show is broadcasted weekly on 87.7 FM in New York.

Ilya Lushnikov
Belarusians in Exile
+1 (646) 583-2525

SOURCE Belarusians in Exile