Friends, representatives of Viktor Babariko’s team, Maxim Bogretsov and Ivan Kravtsov, went on to the traditional stream and answered pressing questions about the creation of the party. Watch the recording and read the text if you have no time to watch it.
Ivan Kravtsov: Many say that there is a feeling of deja vu since May last year when Viktor Dmitrievich announced his desire to be a candidate for the presidency of Belarus. Our team is very happy about this, we have been preparing for this event for a long time, choosing the right moment, and I hope that this will provide an opportunity to find new forms of struggle for change.
Viktor Dmitrievich delivered his appeal on the launch of the “Together” party, dated the 12th of March. Here is a snippet of this appeal.
«We are obliged to make the “Together” party. Must help each other believe in themselves, in the neighborhood, and their country. We cannot leave the cancerous tumor of fear and helplessness to our children and grandchildren. Yes, it’s not easy. The horrors we see on the street sow a seed of doubt and uncertainty. However, we must not forget that it is unjustified cruelty on the part of the government that testifies to its fear and powerlessness before its own people. Success depends only on us. If we act unitedly, consistently and consistently, calmly, and adequately, then the inevitability of victory is obvious. It is impossible to hold power against the will of the people. By joining the party, we will daily demonstrate the benefits of being together in achieving a common goal, the benefits of which are deprived within the individual struggle. And this is important not only for the present but also for the future».
Viktor Dmitrievich’s words will undoubtedly inspire us. In the near future, we will publish the words of Maria Kalesnikava. And I am very glad that it happened.
Why do we do this?
Maxim Bogretsov: There is a need for organized systematic work so that political action can be continued. We are talking about a variety of initiatives aimed, first of all, at ensuring that the Belarusian political system moves towards negotiations and its own modernization. The party or the government is by no means an end in itself for us. We are doing this to make life in the country better. So that people, for whom freedom is not a primary value, understand that through the growth of freedoms, prosperity can also grow. So that people, for whom freedom is as important as breathing, have democratic elements of life, such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, fair vote count, and so on. All these things are easier to do if we are united in some kind of structure. We have been thinking about this since the summer, in September a video was released where it was announced about the creation of the party. Since then, we have not made any drastic actions. But now there is a feeling that the time for the start has been chosen correctly!
Who’s launching the party?
Maxim Bogretsov: These are the people you are familiar with, who were in the backbone of Viktor Babariko’s headquarters and with whom we achieved remarkable results in 2020 together. Remember how many volunteers and members of the initiative group were, remember the collected 435 thousand signatures. Incredible results achieved by incredible people – and these people are uniting today to work in the “Together” party. New faces are also joining us, so there is a chance that everything will work out.
Ivan Kravtsov: The history of the party is quite long. We recorded the video with Viktor Dmitrievich back in June – it was then that it was already planned. Why is this only happening now? There are objective reasons for this. As you remember, at the beginning of September Maria Kalesnikava was abducted, Anton Rodnenkov and I were abducted, then Maksim Znak, Ilya Salei, and other members of the headquarters were detained. Of course, this changed plans a little. Before the New Year, there was another predominant form of resistance, and now, in our opinion, the moment has come when it can be done.
Does the creation of the “Together” party change relations with the Coordination Council, the headquarters of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, and other structures?
Ivan Kravtsov: It changes nothing, we just want to become an inclusive team from an administrative team. Our supporters have been asking us for a format for a long time. We have been closely interacting with Svetlana since June when we began to conduct a joint campaign – and in this sense, nothing has changed. Maxim Znak, Maria Kalesnikava, Maxim Bogretsov – members of the Coordination Council. On the other hand, it is very important for us to continue organized work in Belarus, and in this sense, it is a good format.
Maxim Bogretsov: There is no talk of any split. There are always working issues, we are solving them well, we continue to work within the framework within which it is possible, in the Coordination Council. But the emergence of a party structure allows us to clearly answer questions that are not within the competence of the Constitutional Court. The Coordination Council was created as an organization that can sit down at the negotiating table. But now we are all working on this agenda, and over the past 8 months, there has been no progress in this direction yet. The party agenda will complement our activities within the broader movement and help to more clearly execute other initiatives and projects.
Ivan Kravtsov: I am really looking forward to the movement “Country for Life” to start working in a more organized manner because this network of activists advocating for change is ready to openly declare its position. This is very important, and I think that these structures will gradually take shape. In this regard, I also count on our other partners.
Often a number of issues are related to different ideologies, different political points of different structures. Let me emphasize: now is the time when we must all unite. And we will not focus on issues that divide society.
There is a common agenda associated with not quite valid elections, with huge, terrible violence. But we also want to form a certain vision of how we will build Belarus, how we want it to be. A positive agenda is very important. See how well the voting on the Voice platform went, which we supported very much. The topic of dialogue and negotiation is very important because it is the fastest and most effective way to avoid the negative consequences for society and the economy that have already followed what happened in 2020. This kind of focus really raises people’s morale, which is very important.
Why do you think that the party will be registered, and what will happen if it is not registered?
Maxim Bogretsov: Vladimir Matskevich at Belsat asked me this question the other way around: they won’t register, and okay, your supporters will stay with you, but what will happen if they register? Rumors will spread that you are a KGB project or someone else. Like, it will be very difficult for you to explain the registration later. At the same time, the same Matskevich noted that the winners differ from the losers in that they have a plan in case everything goes wrong. And the weak only have a plan in case everything goes well. So, of course, we have plan A, plan B, and plan C for different occasions. We will do our best to be registered. There is the law. Yes, this is a narrow legal framework that is regularly violated by the authorities. But we are going to test it in full, doing everything that is required by law and seeking registration of our party. Why dissuade yourself from the very beginning from the fact that something will work out? And if not, then we’ll talk about plans B and C. We have a lot of people who support our agenda. These people came together because they support Viktor Dmitrievich’s program as a presidential candidate.
Here, we are in Belarus, the crisis is still going on, and we want our vote to be taken into account, we want to return this voice to ourselves, and we want to have an impact on what is happening in the political system. This is our legal right.
Ivan Kravtsov: The issue of registration is key from the point of view of the fact that we have always used legal methods to achieve the goal – to be an example of how procedures are carried out in a state governed by the rule of law. But from an organizational point of view, registration is not at all a key point. Many associations in Belarus operate as unregistered ones, and here it is important to unite people. Above all, we strive for internal democracy so that supporters have the opportunity to take a real part in our teamwork and advance the agenda they believe in.
On The Hand of Kremlin
Ivan Kravtsov: Since May, the topic of the influence of different forces on the protest has been raised repeatedly. It was funny to watch when our team and the team of the joint headquarters were credited with the hand of the Kremlin, then the hand of the US State Department – and this was constantly changing. We remember how at first 30 Russian militant agents were detained, then we began to say that they are financed from the EU. The topic has been heard for a year now, but it is very strange to ascribe to us some kind of outside support when half of our headquarters is in prison. When there are some agreements or people do not act openly, it somehow looks different. We are absolutely open in our actions. We are already accustomed to these conspiracy theories, and I think that time will put everything in its place.
Maxim Bogretsov: If this is someone’s hand, then I expect our friends to get out of prison. And these politzek.me jerseys that we wear will become a historical rarity. And now they are completely relevant.
«You will achieve nothing!»
Maxim Bogretsov: Everyone understands in what conditions we work, and everyone understands in what conditions the Belarusian political system. The worst thing in this situation is to do nothing and not find ways to demonstrate that we are in the majority and that the ongoing political crisis needs to be addressed. More than 750,000 thousand votes on Golos is a demonstration that we demand a solution to the political crisis.
The people who publicly signed the petition on petitions.by against the recognition of the white-red-white symbols as extremist are a demonstration of our opinion. To work in an organized manner within the framework of the party movement is also a demonstration of opinion. It is very important! Will there be mistakes? Yes! Will there be things that we will later say that should have been done differently? Sure! But the one who does nothing is not mistaken. And I am sure that together we will succeed in a lot. I do not know a single person who would have said a year ago that more than 400,000 signatures would be collected for Viktor Dmitrievich. I am sure that no one in March last year gave you a chance that it would work out. And yet, you did it!
Ivan Kravtsov: And Svetlana Tikhanovskaya? The authorities decided to register her, being sure that she would not succeed. As a result, we got a leader, for whom more than half of the voters voted. Therefore, we must not stop, try new forms, look at everything with optimism, as Viktor Dmitrievich does. The person has already been in prison for 9 months, does not lose optimism and is set for a long-term struggle. And in this sense, I always say: let’s be like Viktor Dmitrievich. Let’s take an example from him, let’s take an example from Masha Kalesnikava, who does not give up her beliefs, let’s take an example from Maxim Znak, who suffered for commenting on what was happening from the point of view of how it should be according to the law. Let’s not stop, let’s continue to insist on our own – and then success and results will inevitably occur.
Is it safe?
Ivan Kravtsov: Our position is an open movement. Of course, without your consent, we do not transfer data to any government agencies. Our data is stored on Amazon servers, which is good protection, but a party is an organization where its position is expressed openly. We do not build underground or partisan movements, therefore, in general, this is a movement for those who are ready to publicly express their position. If you join the party, it will be known. But data security is a very important thing, almost no one has access to it, the servers are not located in Belarus and the special services have no access to them.
Maxim Bogretsov: When we talk about security, understanding the conditions in which we live in Belarus, the question is not about data, here we will provide everything that is needed to prevent a drain.
The best way for our safety is to have as many of us as possible. This is an open political activity, you can jail, detain one person, ten or a hundred. But you cannot jail an idea.
And if we are like-minded people and we are all united by the principles that were announced in the summer of 2020 during the presidential campaign, if we are all together and ready to announce this to our friends, on social networks, hang a flag, wear a T-shirt or something else, then it will become it is clear that there are many of us and repression is an absolutely inoperative mechanism in this case. It is difficult to use the word “guarantees” in this case, and it would be naive if Ivan and I tried to convince you of this. Especially Ivan, who was loaded into a car and tried to be taken out of Belarus, or me, whose friends are now in prison. There is an element of risk, but we believe that this is the safest and most correct way of political action at the moment. It will be a long, systematic, consistent work that will ultimately bring good results. The risk is worth it. The alternative of sitting on the couch and doing nothing, criticizing others, seems wrong to us. The people who crowded around Viktor Dmitrievich’s headquarters demand action – and this is what we are trying to organize.
As for the creation of a party, in my environment, they say different things, how many people – so many opinions. But in general, even those who speak negatively at first, after listening to the arguments, say that this is certainly the best alternative, especially if you are on the territory of Belarus and want to express your point of view. This is a fairly understandable format in which you can work, you can get together, at least try, and move forward. There are people who are negative because they would like to win tomorrow.
I also want the changes to come faster. But it seems to them that this consistent, systematic work for a long time is premature. But the conversation usually turns into a constructive channel, because the question arises about alternatives – what can be offered, what can be done. Most importantly, the conversation turns to the issue of principles. And our principles are maximally within the framework of the law, non-violently, so that we can build a normal integrated society. Ultimately, we all agree on the same point of view. If people are not ready to participate for security reasons – yes, in Belarus many have a feeling that everyone has a file and everyone can be pulled by the hook. So this is exactly the reason why you can’t stop now – we want it to end. So that everyone feels safe, can express their opinion and not be repressed for it. So every argument here is a double-sided coin.
Yes, it’s scary to do now. But how long can you be afraid?
Can Belarusians outside of Belarus join the party?
Ivan Kravtsov: We believe that this is one of the most acceptable formats in which one can work in Belarus. The party can unite Belarusians from all over the world. And if you are a citizen of Belarus, you have a Belarusian passport, including the PP series, then we will be glad to see you and work together. The support of Belarusians abroad is very important, we have shown this many times this year, so join us.
What about the program?
Ivan Kravtsov: We have a manifesto on our website, which contains the basic principles and ideas that Viktor Dmitrievich and his team declared. But many want to see detailed items on social security, education, and so on. But I understand that this work should be carried out together with people, and it is very strange to publish a program before the creation of a party, because this program should be written, among other things, by party members.
Maxim Bogretsov: Absolutely! It is clear that there are theses that have existed since the presidential campaign. If they did not exist, it would be difficult for you to start your work in the summer, supporting Viktor Dmitrievich. The party assumes a different level of detail, this work must be done, but this should be done by the backbone, the asset, those people who will join the party in the near future. Some of the things are quite complicated, it would be useful to consult with experts, involve them, or support the proposals of the expert community. So we will work on the program together.
A new type of party
Maxim Bogretsov: Traditional structures that should have been done a hundred years ago: you come with some kind of ideology, dogma, and you select people for it. Now both digital tools and the way we are connected with each other, there is an opportunity to work on such things together regardless of where you are, but for you, Belarus is your homeland, you have citizenship, a passport, and everything else. You can work on these things together.
Ivan Kravtsov: I would like that due to this, the attitude towards such things as the party would change altogether. Often when the word “party” is heard, the idea arises that it is something conservative and mossy. And I see that this is a mass movement. We saw that IT tools played a decisive role last year – in voting, in the formation of observers. It allows you to reduce the distance between everyone who is on the move. Activism takes an important part of the work, of course, within the framework of the law. That is why we call it a party of a new type, because it does not quite correspond to analogs that exist in countries with a developed institution of democracy. In general, this is a format of a broad movement with a high degree of decentralization, with a high degree of participation through IT tools – this will be the difference.
Will we participate in any elections?
Ivan Kravtsov: Of course, the position of our team, but of all the united democratic forces, is about participation. We will always use news feeds and all opportunities, especially legal ones if they allow us to fight for the agenda, to wage a political struggle. Of course, it is important what will happen in the fall and how it will happen this year. But our position is for participation! I believe that there are few supporters left to do nothing and not go to any elections. In August, we clearly showed that it is always worth going, expressing your position, voting because this has a completely different effect than apathy and learned helplessness.
Maxim Bogretsov: A boycott is an option that is always there, which can be used at the last moment, and it is very often chosen by people with whom I am not close to working. After all, if you do nothing, you never look like a fool, and I sometimes make mistakes. Therefore, we will work and will use all available opportunities to state our position.
Where do I get the same T-shirt as Maxim Bogretsovs’?
Maxim Bogretsov: It says politzek.me, go there, take off your image and agree on where they are ready to publish it. As practice shows, this is not trivial:). We do not sell this, but everyone can be creative and, if desired, do it a little differently. I have these for every day, with different people, Viktor Dmitrievich is popular because we go to court. They often try to take mine away from me. Naturally, there is Ilya Salei, there is Eduard, there are other guys. I try to alternate on different days so that they do not forget that our comrades-in-arms are more than 300 people who are now on the list of political prisoners and who are now sitting for us.
Is Viktor Dmitrievich satisfied with the party’s launch?
Ivan Kravtsov: On Monday there was a message that Viktor Dmitrievich’s lawyer Dmitry Laevsky even managed to show him what the site looks like. He is very pleased because he was waiting for this, he supports all of us, so yes.
How to join the party?
Ivan Kravtsov: We have developed such a sequence for gathering supporters. You come to the site, click the “Join the Party” button, and fill out an application. After that, you should receive a letter by mail with a link to the profile. In the questionnaire, we check our values and views, and you also fill in all the necessary personal data that is needed. After that, around mid-April, you will receive an invitation to a group interview. Maksim and I will be at this interview too, most likely, or other members of our team. We will get to know each other there, after that we will send an official invitation to the party. After that, each constituency will elect its delegates to the constituent assembly, which will be in May, and then we will apply for registration. In terms of offline meetings, I think we are planning offline meetings during April. Whoever has the opportunity, we turn to Maxim, we will also visit regional cities so that we have an opportunity to communicate closer. Here’s a plan, and in May a constituent congress.
When will all the party materials be available in the Belarusian language?
Ivan Kravtsov: we already have them on the website. Click the button and register there.