Belarus opposition leader urges MEPs to ‘show solidarity’ with protestors

Speaking in the European Parliament on Monday, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said, “We need your support.”
Svetlana Tikhanovskaya | Photo credit: PA Images

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

21 Sep 2020

Tsikhanouskaya was addressing Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee and the Sub-Committee on Human Rights in a joint exchange of views on the current situation in Belarus.

There were further protests in the country at the weekend at what are widely seen as fraudulent recent national elections.

The presidential elections held on 9 August left incumbent authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko claiming he had won with a vast majority, triggering massive popular protests and general strikes.

Tsikhanouskaya told the meeting, “I have lived for 26 years under a dictatorship and we were sleeping but the Belarus people have now woken up. For seven weeks in a row, daily, we have been demonstrating against the falsified election but this has been met with violence, torture and harassment.”

“Some people have been killed and just because they want to live in a free country. But our fight is a fight for freedom, democracy and human dignity.”

Appearing in person in Parliament, she told the Committee, “This is not a geopolitical revolution. It is not anti- or pro-Russian, or pro- or anti-EU. It is a pro-Belarusian revolution.”

“I have lived for 26 years under a dictatorship and we were sleeping but the Belarus people have now woken up. For seven weeks in a row, daily, we have been demonstrating against the falsified election, but this has been met with violence, torture and harassment”

“It is exclusively peaceful and non-violent and we have set an example for the world on how to fight for freedom and democracy.”

Tsikhanouskaya spoke of the “new Belarus” and “one which will not tolerate falsified elections or state violence.”

“We demand three things: release political prisoners, stop police violence and conduct free elections.”

She said the regime “hopes the protests will fade but they will continue for as long as needed, for weeks, months and even years to come if necessary.”

Tsikhanouskaya, founder of the Belarusian Coordination Council, warned, “We will no longer remain hostages of his regime or live in Lukashenko’s prison cell.”

She hopes continued “pressure will force the regime to have dialogue with people,” adding, “We will never recognise the result of the 9 August election and you have to remember this is happening in the middle of Europe in 2020.”

“We ask you to show solidarity by supporting civil society in Belarus, which remains under constant pressure, consider criminal investigations against those involved in crimes in Belarus, including rape and torture”

She said a resolution adopted last week by Parliament was an “important step forward” adding, “it is one of the most important decisions of modern Belarus.”

Tsikhanouskaya told MEPs, “We ask you to show solidarity by supporting civil society in Belarus which remains under constant pressure, consider criminal investigations against those involved in crimes in Belarus, including rape and torture.”

“We have a list of people of those involved in this brutal crackdown and we also ask that you do not finance a dictatorship. We also call on the EU to work for fair, free and transparent elections.”

It was Tsikhanouskaya’s second appearance at the Committee, the first was last month via a video link.

Committee Chair David McAllister, a German EPP member, said the issue remains at the top of the Committee’s agenda.

He said the resolution “is very clear in that it rejects the results of the so-called elections on 9 August, which was a flagrant contravention of all international standards.”

“The EU also condemns in the strongest possible terms the violent response in the wake of the fraudulent election. The violence must be stopped immediately and we strongly support sanctions against those responsible, including Lukashenko.”

He praised Tsikhanouskaya who, he said, had “woken up the nation” along with those who are “expressing the demands of the majority of people in Belarus.”

Parliament’s President David Sassoli, after his meeting with Tsikhanouskaya, said, "I am very happy to see that she is doing well. Unfortunately, there are thousands of Belarusians still in detention, many of whom have been tortured in their own country. For 45 days people have demonstrated on the streets demanding their right to choose the future of their country."

"The current situation is unacceptable. I call on Lukashenko to release all those detained and engage in dialogue with the Coordination Council and representatives of the Belarusian people."

He added, "Parliament last week voted a resolution by a large majority calling for respect for civil, political and human rights in Belarus and to support the idea of sanctions to target the perpetrators of violence."

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