Belarusian opposition leader calls on EU to support country’s ‘peaceful revolution’

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya made an impassioned plea during her address to the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs committee.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

25 Aug 2020

Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has warned that protesters in her country “will not relent” in their quest for “free and fair” elections.

Speaking to MEPs in Brussels on Tuesday, she said, “My country is in turmoil and crisis. The demonstrations of the last few days are unprecedented in size and scope in Belarus but peaceful protesters are being beaten and detained.

“All this is taking place in the middle of Europe.”

She was addressing members of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee who held an extraordinary two-hour meeting on Tuesday morning to discuss the situation in Belarus.

Tikhanovskaya fled to Lithuania in the wake of the contested Belarusian election and, on Monday in Vilnius, met with US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun.

Appearing via a video link to the parliamentary committee, she made an impassioned plea for “fair and free” elections.

She said the recent elections were “deeply flawed” with the results being “falsified.”

“Several people, including my husband, have been jailed on trumped up charges but the violence has not deterred people. Rather, it has strengthened their resolve.”

Praising the “200,000” who marched in Minsk on Sunday, she said, “Belarus has woken up. We are not the opposition anymore but the majority.

“A peaceful revolution is taking place in Belarus. This is not a geo-political revolution, it is neither a pro-Russian or anti-Russian revolution and nor is it a pro or anti-EU revolution. It is democratic revolution. It is a nation which is striving to decide its own destiny for itself. It is not a violent but a peaceful revolution.”

“A peaceful revolution is taking place in Belarus. This is not a geo-political revolution, it is neither a pro-Russian or anti-Russian revolution and nor is it a pro or anti-EU revolution. It is democratic revolution. It is a nation which is striving to decide its own destiny for itself. It is not a violent but a peaceful revolution” Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya

She called on other countries to support the efforts of her countrymen and women, “and respect the sovereignty of Belarus.”

She added, “The demand of the protesters and people who are striking is simple: free and fair elections. This is the wish of the whole nation.

“We are committed to the norms of international law and European values. We will not relent and will not give up. The will of the people will not be broken.”

But she told members of the committee that the objective was “to achieve our aims by way of dialogue.”

To applause from members in the committee room, she demanded that the authorities “free all political prisoners and stop the violence. Belarus people deserve better,” she concluded.

Afterwards, foreign affairs committee chair David McAllister told her, “Your message today will reach an audience far beyond Belarus. Rest assured we will follow developments closely and we will offer the support your nation needs at this challenging time.”

“You have experienced first-hand what is happening in Belarus and you deserve our greatest respect. You have inspired people to demand democratic change.”

“Your message today will reach an audience far beyond Belarus. Rest assured we will follow developments closely and we will offer the support your nation needs at this challenging time” David McAllister, Chair of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee

Belarus will also be high on the agenda of an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Berlin on Thursday and Friday where possible new sanctions on Belarusian officials will be discussed.

The authorities in Belarus on Monday arrested Olga Kovalkova and Sergei Dylevsky, two leading opposition figures, and called in Nobel laureate author Svetlana Alexievich for questioning.

All three are members of the Coordination Council, which was set up last week with the aim of facilitating a peaceful handover of power. President Alexander Lukashenko’s government has launched a criminal investigation into the Council.

On Sunday, tens of thousands of protesters went onto the streets of Minsk again demanding Lukashenko’s resignation, despite a warning by the president that he had put the army on alert to protect his country’s “territorial integrity.” Footage on Sunday showed the embattled president in a bulletproof vest carrying a rifle.

EU foreign policy Chief Josep Borrell said he was “hugely impressed by the massive and peaceful demonstrations in Minsk and across Belarus.”

The former MEP added, “They show the determination and courage of the Belarusian people to seek democratic change. The authorities must enter into a national dialogue without delay.”

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