2020.10.06

Members of the European Parliament call for the Belarusian military to defend the Belarusian people, rather than blindly following and executing Lukashenko’s illegal orders–inherently attacking them

25 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from various political groups wrote to the Belarusian military officials. Initiated by MEP Rasa Jukneviciene (former Defence Minister of Lithuania) the MEPs call for the military’s decision to either pledge to abide by their oath to protect the Belarusian people, or to conform with Lukashenka’s illegal orders.

The letter states “This procedure, that Lukashenka has organised in secrecy for himself, is null and void both on moral and legal grounds; it does not make him the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Belarus.”

MEPs emphasise that “Giving illegal orders – is a crime, following illegal orders – is also a crime. The international community will investigate all those crimes,” MEPs call for the conscience voice of their fellow citizens to be heard.

“You, the militants and the police officers, are also Belarusians–the same the same as the ones who are peacefully protesting in the streets, demanding for fair elections and your rights. Instead of unlawfully assaulting, intimidating, or persecuting these innocent civilians that are children, the elderly, or even pregnant women, you should be protecting and defending them. This is a historic turning point where you must make the right decision– be a part of a coup and a military junta or, stand on the right side of history, with the people who are simply peacefully asking for their rights to be respected”, says MEP Rasa Jukneviciene.

MEPs also declare that “Do not turn against your fellow compatriots. Do not enable this illegal power grab. Do not become part of Lukashenka’s military junta.” They further note that “The People of Belarus consider Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya as the winner of the elections and as the President-elect of Belarus. The Coordination Council is an interim representation of the people demanding democratic change in Belarus. This has been acknowledged by the European Parliament in its 17 September 2020 Resolution on the situation in Belarus.”

The letter was sent by email and mail to the Ministry of Defense of Belarus and the Commanders of the Armed Forces.

2020.09.23

Statement to the People of Belarus

By Andrius Kubilius, MEP, Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly

On 9 August 2020, Mr Lukashenko falsified and stole the elections from the People of Belarus. He was not re-elected. There was an overwhelming evidence that an absolute majority of the People have chosen opposition leader Ms Svetlana Tikhanovska as their President. Mr Lukashenko, by massively repressing peaceful protesters and torturing civil society activists, was stealing this victory from the People of Belarus.

According to the international law, there is no legitimate president since the elections and their results were not recognised, and the new presidential elections in Belarus have to be organised immediately, as the term in office of the current President ends on 5 November 2020.

Today’s attempt of Mr Lukashenko to falsify secretly and shamefully his inauguration and to make himself the President again after he lost elections, is an attempt to grab and usurp the power by using military and police force. It is nothing else, as an establishment of a military junta in Belarus. All military juntas find the same end.

The military and law enforcement structures in Belarus now have to make a crucial choice – either to be with a military junta of a disillusioned Mr Lukashenko, or to remain with the People of Belarus they took an oath to defend. This is a choice for men and women working in military and police structures who have a hope to live in a free and democratic Belarus, which Mr Lukashenko is attempting to steal from them.

The actions of law enforcement authorities, if they will choose to continue pogroms of innocent people, will bear direct consequences according to the international law. The EU will stand together in solidarity with those defending the Belarusian people and their right for a democratic choice of their President. The actions of the military junta will have legal consequences. The EU will have no relations whatsoever with a military junta in Belarus and will not recognise any of its actions.

2020.09.15

A. Kubilius: Alexander Lukashenko’s signatures on Vladimir Putin’s documents may become verdict for himself

Alexander Lukashenko is seeking to hold the post of Belarusian leader for yet another term in office at any cost. There seems to be a rush to confirm certain documents with his legal signature. According to MEP Andrius KUBILIUS (EPP, LT), it is realistic that the signature that may be put by Lukashenko in the near future will be a verdict for himself, as he will become too toxic to Vladimir Putin and will need to be replaced. Russia is now the only open supporter of Lukashenko.

This can be seen from the meetings of ministers of foreign affairs and defence last week as well as the arrival of the Russian prime minister to meet Lukashenko in Minsk. On Monday, Lukashenko himself is going to Sochi, where Putin is waiting for him. Will this meeting determine the fate of Belarus? This is the question for Brussels-based KUBILIUS, who has recently become a standing rapporteur on Russia. “Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya has made it clear that Lukashenko, having lost the elections, has neither political nor moral mandate to trade Belarus’ sovereignty which belongs to the people, and any of his signatures or agreements will not be recognised as legitimate after the final victory of democracy in Belarus wins. On Tuesday or Wednesday next week, there will be important debates in the European Parliament (EP) on Belarus, and I think that the EP will also say that such agreements have no power and will not be recognised,” Lrt.lt quotes KUBILIUS.

2020.09.02

A. Kubilius. Belarus: several comments on international issues

Belarus’s affairs keep our attention. Inside Belarus, the developments have their own dynamics. People on the streets continue to defend their 9th August victory. Meanwhile Lukashenko changes tactics to stifle individual protests or places of protest – detains individual protesters, journalists and strike committee leaders much more “politely” than before; tries to intimidate certain groups in society: students, teachers, workers in striking factories; seeks Putin’s support even more intensively.

However, all this Lukashenko’s “self-defence” (even with a machine gun in his hands) does not change the fundamental changes that have already taken place in Belarus: nothing will change the fact that Lukashenko lost the election on 9 August. He lost very painfully. He is very well aware of this and therefore is simply afraid of new, transparent elections; He knows that if they took place and he decides to take part in them, he would lose even more. That is the essence of the “Belarusian crisis”. The Belarusian people do not forget the essence, nor can the international community, which is also increasingly paying more attention to the “Belarusian crisis”, forget the essence. Many issues related to the “Belarusian crisis” are being discussed in the international community, including us, Lithuanians: sanctions, support to victims, release of political prisoners, investigation of OMON crimes, provision of financial support to Belarus. However, in this multiplicity of various larger and smaller issues, two essential things must not be forgotten: 1) Lukashenko lost the election; 2) New elections must be held immediately, not “at some time later on”. Bellow, I will try to set out some of the provisions that Lithuania, together with its Western partners, should follow in those international organizations to which Lithuania belongs and which can effectively help the people of Belarus to defend their victory in the democratic revolution. These are the provisions that Lithuania should adhere to, first, in the structures of the European Union and the OSCE. These are certainly not some comprehensive provisions of any kind of systemic strategy, but the most relevant ones for the international community, Lithuania and the Belarusian society in the next few months.

5 NOVEMBER AND LUKASHENKO

Belarus lives under the current “Lukashenko Constitution”. It stipulates that the term of office of the President shall last for 5 years. Lukashenko’s current term will end on 5 November, as it began on 5 November 2015, when Lukashenko took the oath during his inauguration. It is not worth arguing that the 2015 elections were legitimate (as such a debate will only divert attention from key issues), but it is worth making it clear that Lukashenko is currently the President who lost 9 August elections in terms of international law and whose term of office expires on 5 November. After 5 November, Belarus will not have a President for some time. Article 81 of the current Constitution of Belarus calls such a situation “when the office of President is vacant” (“Если должность Президента оказалась вакантной”) and provides that in this case extraordinary Presidential elections must be held no earlier than 30 days and no later than 70 days after such vacancy had occurred. After 5 November, Lukashenko will be an ordinary Belarusian citizen who can be called the “former President of Belarus.” If Lukashenko will try to organize an illegal and fictitious “new inauguration” before 5 November and will try to stay in the post of President after 5 November, it will be nothing more than an illegal usurpation of power, perhaps even using military force. From the point of view of international law and Belarusian national law, this should be treated as an armed coup.

It is worth realizing now, that after 5 November there will be no “President Lukashenko” in terms of international law. There will only be either “former President” or “coup d’etat Lukashenko”. This means that any dialogue or negotiation with Lukashenko will no longer be possible: it will either any longer make sense or it will be illegal. In addition, the existence of a “coup d’etat Lukashenko” will have a number of other international consequences (diplomats, agreements, contracts, etc.) that Lithuania and the international community must begin to consider now. According to Article 89 of the Constitution of Belarus, in the event that the office of President is vacant, the Prime Minister of the country shall hold the office temporarily (until new elections are held). After 5 November, the international community will have to negotiate with the Prime Minister of Belarus on how to ensure that genuinely democratic and transparent new presidential elections are held no later 70 days after 5 November.

BRUSSELS, BERLIN, WASHINGTON – AND MOSCOW

In matters of the “Belarusian crisis”, the international community clearly falls into two camps: Western democracies (including Lithuania) show solidarity with the Belarusian society, which won the democratic revolution, while Putin does not hide his support for the Lukashenko regime. At the same time, Putin’s support for Lukashenko is becoming the only factor why Lukashenko is still holding on to the post. Putin himself, as a dictator like Lukashenko, has many reasons for doing so, but in any case, Putin’s long-term support for “toxic” Lukashenko may turn Putin himself “toxic” in the eyes of Belarusians. It is not surprising to us, to Western leaders, or to the Belarusians themselves, that Putin is holding the keys to the door of Lukashenko’s withdrawal. Lukashenko himself became a fully-fledged vassal of the Kremlin during the 26 years of his reign. Therefore, we should not be surprised that Western leaders are calling on Lukashenko’s host, Putin, and are negotiating with him, rather than with Lukashenko, on the issue of Lukashenko’s withdrawal. It is also quite clear that Putin is trying to draw his “red lines” in such negotiations on the geopolitical future of Belarus after Lukashenko. The Western community and its leaders, in solidarity with the people of Belarus, must adhere to clear rules in such talks with Putin: they can negotiate on how Putin shall persuade the defeated Lukashenko to resign peacefully, but the geopolitical future of Belarus will be decided and negotiated by the new democratic Belarus itself, rather than by the West-Putin agreement reached without the participation of Belarus’s legal representatives. Following Putin’s latest statements about “reserve” OMON support the Kremlin is prepared to provide to the Lukashenko regime, the West must also be ready to see more and more critical posters towards Putin start appearing not only on the streets of Khabarovsk but also on the streets of Minsk. The posters perhaps may feature the question: “Mister Putin – who are you with Lukashenko or the People of Belarus? I have written before, that revolutionary changes in Belarus are becoming a “trap” for Putin. Putin has no good way out of this trap. The West must be prepared for the development, that Putin’s own stance on Belarus may influence a radical change in the orientation of Belarusian society: rapid frustration with Russia’s stance and growing sympathy for the West. Therefore, the longer Putin demonstrates his “friendship” with Lukashenko’s toxic regime, the fewer opportunities the Kremlin will have to hybrid-influence Belarus’s political processes and post-Lukashenko elections. The example of Ukraine shows that Putin can be “thanked” for uniting Ukraine on a pro-Western agenda since 2014, and because of that the Kremlin is still unable to regain any significant hybrid leverage to significantly influence Ukrainian policy.
Lithuania, for its part, must already formulate a clear position for the Western partners set out above: after 5 November, Lukashenko will remain only an ordinary “former President”, otherwise he will become a “Lukashenko of coup d’etat”. In any case, it will make no sense nor will be right to have a dialogue or negotiate with him.

THE ROLE OF THE OSCE

There is a growing recognition in the West that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is best placed to take action to address the current “crisis in Belarus”. Primarily because its members are both the West and the East from Vilnius, Berlin and Washington to Moscow and Minsk. OSCE is the only political organization on the European continent of which Belarus is a member. The extent to which the current OSCE is ready to address the “Belarus crisis” remains the subject of further discussions. It is well known that at least the OSCE election observation body ODIHR is able to do its job effectively. It is an easy guess that Russia, also a member of the OSCE, will try to use the OSCE’s role in favour of the Lukashenko regime, that is, to delay time. Therefore, the West, including Lithuania, together with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, representing the democratic society of Belarus, and its Coordinating Council should formulate a clear position – the role of the OSCE in resolving the “Belarusian crisis” is needed only for transparent and democratic elections; the entire organization (from the setting up of new commissions to the effective monitoring of voting) should be taken over by the ODIHR. It would be a mistake to enter into an indefinite OSCE negotiation process that negotiates any unclear processes of transitional periods or power shift from Lukashenko to the new democracy. Because it could simply become a new “Minsk process”, in which, as in the case of the war against Ukraine, the Kremlin will raise new and new conditions, but will not take any action that depends solely on the Kremlin.

NO! – TO THE LUKASHENKA/LAVROV PLAN: A NEW CONSTITUTION IN THE BEGINNING, INSTEAD OF NEW ELECTIONS

One of the questions to be answered immediately, in particular, by Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and the Coordinating Council is their view of the plan announced by Lukashenko and promoted by Lavrov and Putin – that Lukashenko will initially draft a new Constitution for Belarus, and only once it has been adopted new elections will be held. Lukashenko makes no secret that such an action could go on for the duration of the next few years. It is quite clear that the Kremlin will seek to turn this procrastination plan into an OSCE-based plan. Lithuania should clearly state its position that such a plan is completely unacceptable. Not Lukashenko, who lost the election, will decide on the new draft Constitution. The Coordinating Council formed by Tsikhanouskaya has made a similar statement: new transparent elections will be held immediately at first, followed by a national referendum proposing a return of the democratic Constitution of Belarus, which was in force until 1994. It is worth repeating these provisions clearly and loudly over and over again so that it also reaches the offices of Western leaders, who must be properly prepared to resist the “constitutional pitfalls” of Lukashenko/Lavrov in negotiations with Putin, designed just to delay time.

LITHUANIA AND THE EU: MARSHALL PLAN FOR DEMOCRATIC BELARUS

Lithuania, together with Poland, is legally recognized as the most active supporter of democratic change in Belarus among EU members. The Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius deserved such an assessment with their statements and actions, and the same goes to journalist and public activist Andrius Tapinas (organizer of the “Freedom Way”) and 50,000 Lithuanians, who united themselves to form a human chain of solidarity on the Freedom Way on 23 August. However, such an assessment is not only a recognition but also a huge responsibility. A responsibility that requires of us not only the ability to maintain the leadership, but also the ability to strategically plan for the future for at least few years in advance and the most difficult challenges facing a new, democratic Belarus. It requires preparing already now, seriously and effectively, both for ourselves and for the EU as a whole, to help the new Belarus respond to these challenges. I have already written that one of the most difficult challenges will be the affairs of the Belarusian economy, which is completely dependent on Russia (and thus on the Kremlin). I will not repeat all the arguments as to why the most important thing in the near future will be to help the Belarusian economy become more diversified and, at the same time, less dependent on Russia. However, in order to achieve this, the European Union will have to provide not only EUR 50 million in support (which is now much talked about), but much bigger support package of EUR 3.5-4 billion, which could also be called the Marshall Plan for Democratic Belarus. Lithuania, together with Poland, should take the initiative for the EU to start preparing such a Marshall Plan now. News of such a Plan would help today as well: it would counter the propaganda and intimidation of the Lukashenko regime that new elections and real democracy in Belarus would be very detrimental to the Belarusian economy. The European Union should not be afraid to draw a clear distinction: if the Kremlin promises to lend one billion to support the Lukashenko regime, then the EU is ready to support the democratic economy of Belarus with billions of the Marshall Plan. However, in order to take the lead in implementing such an EU initiative, Lithuania should already provide not only moral or political asylum support to the democracy of Belarus, but also needs to show its solidarity with real financial commitments. Poland has announced that it will provide 50 million zloty in support of democracy in Belarus (about EUR 12 million), while Lithuania has not yet spoken about the similar commitments. It is quite difficult to understand why, at a time when the Government this year is spending billions to the left and right, one or two million are difficult to find to support democracy in Belarus, not only nice political statements. I am convinced that Seimas would support such a proposal of the Government by an absolute majority of votes.

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The fate of the Belarusian democracy is being decided on the streets of Minsk. I firmly believe that the victory of democracy will prevail. My optimism stems not only from faith in and admiration for the new civic Belarusian nation but also from a clear understanding that change in Belarus is driven by objective historical processes: the continued collapse of the Soviet/Russian Empire and its post-imperial spheres of influence as well as the end of post-Soviet authoritarian leaders. The changes that are taking place in Belarus are objective, based on natural laws of history and no one can stop them. Somebody may try to delay these historical processes by shedding the blood of peaceful people, but they will fail to stop them. Lithuania’s task is not only to directly help and show solidarity with a democratic Belarus. Lithuania’s task is also to be the most effective advocate and lobbyist for a democratic Belarus in a democratic Western community, where there is still too little understanding of the historical processes taking place in the post-Soviet space and too much desire not to irritate “the wild” Putin, who is poisoning his opponents.

2020.08.17

Andrius Kubilius. Belarus: what next?

What has happened so far? Lukashenko lost the elections. He continues to try to remain in power by deploying the brutal and inhumane power of OMON and the military, pogroms and torture. By holding Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s husband hostage in jail and thus blackmailing his rival who received a majority in the vote, Lukashenko has forced her to flee to Lithuania to her children.

Peaceful demonstrations by Belarussian women with flowers and the emergence of nationwide strikes have forced Lukashenko to change tack in recent days: arrested and beaten people during peaceful demonstrations have been released. Even the possibility cannot be ruled out that Lukashenko will agree to mimic some sort of “dialogue” with the opposition. Despite the protests in Belarus proceeding seemingly without any clear leadership, they are very effective, constantly changing their tactics in an organised fashion and achieving crucial results. The demands of all protesters are the same: halt OMON pogroms on the streets, release political prisoners and those arrested during peaceful demonstrations, carry out an impartial count of all votes and hold new presidential elections. This way, a historic civic victory would be achieved in the elections and over the past few days, it would also be possible to halt (at least temporarily) OMON pogroms and rampaging on the streets. It is likely that other goals will also be achieved. The new Belarussian civic nation, despite the extremely difficult conditions of Lukashenko’s dictatorship, has thus far acted almost flawlessly. Despite the grumbling of Lithuanian “couch experts” that things aren’t proceeding correctly or that democracy in Belarus only benefits Putin, it is likely that the Belarussian “flower revolution” will not only return true democracy and true sovereignty to Belarus, but will also have a far wider geopolitical impact across the entire post-Soviet authoritarian space, including Russia. While observing with surprise the wisdom, energy and strength of the Belarussian civic movement, it becomes clear that even without our advice, they themselves are pursuing a final victory to great effect. However, it is essential for us to understand what Lithuanian, European or in general Western actions we can employ to help them pursue this victory. These events must involve not only solidarity events (which are truly important) or declarations denouncing Lukashenko’s brutality and calls for him to “leave”, but also specific political and legal initiatives of our own, which we must implement across all international institutions in which we have a presence so that we may help the Belarussians achieve real change sooner.

There are actions which we are already putting into effect (both President Nausėda and Minister Linkevičius, as well as the Seimas committees), but there are tasks which we must still initiate without delay. Let me list a few of them here:

1. Illegitimate Lukashenko. This is already recognised by most Western leaders and the EU leadership. But we must follow up on this – on September 10, his current mandate expires. After this, he will only be “citizen Lukashenko.” This means that it will no longer be possible for there to be any discussions or dialogues with him regarding any sort of “transition period.” If, even after this expiration, he clings to the post through the help of the OMON and the military, the international community must view him as an individual who has usurped power by military force. Based even just on the current Belarussian Constitution, this is a serious crime. Lithuania must begin formulating this position within international institutions immediately. Up to September 10, it will be possible to “negotiate” with Lukashenko only on how he will step down after September 10 and how Belarus will be administered in the transition period.

2. New elections without Yermoshina and the compromised commissions. New and immediate presidential elections are inevitable and this is the only way out of the current political and constitutional crisis in Belarus. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya also pledged new and free elections. While it is clear that Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya won the August 9 elections, it might be impossible to perform a full legal count of voters’ wishes due to the mass manipulations perpetrated by the Lukashenko administration both before and during the elections. The new elections must be transparent, in line with all international standards and cannot be influenced by the commissions of Lukashenko and Yermoshina. Even the presence of numerous international observers might not suffice if fair elections are to be held assuming the same electoral commissions remain operational. So it is essential to initiate without delay an international investigation of the current electoral commissions’ illegal actions and during that process perform an impartial count of the real votes (which S. Tsikhanouskaya has been justly demanding). However, such an investigation should first and foremost help uncover the scale of machinations and expose those responsible for “election theft” (all the way down to the common commission chairmen and secretaries falsifying the elections). These individuals must be included in the list of individuals with sanctions potentially imposed on them (at least by stripping them of the right to receive an EU visa) and the commissions must be reformed from the ground up, including in them representatives of political parties and candidates and allowing observers to operate freely. These actions must be initiated without delay so as to actively help protect the fairness of the upcoming elections.

3. Political prisoner Siarhei Tsikhanouski must be immediately released. No “round tables” or “dialogues” can be held regarding emerging from the crisis until the husband of election winner Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya remains a hostage in prison. Terrorists seize hostages to reach their goals. Lukashenko is doing the same. No one negotiates with terrorists over the release of hostages. The same must be the case with Lukashenko. The release of other political prisoners is also a necessary condition, but S. Tsikhanouski’s case is special.

4. An international inquiry into the pogroms and torture perpetrated by the OMON. Even after the Belarussian people achieved victory against violence on the streets, which has finally come to a halt, it is essential to perform a thorough international inquiry into these crimes, which could even lead all the way to the Hague Tribunal. This could also include a broader investigation of Lukashenko’s crimes. An initiative which we proposed at the European Parliament to establish a special investigative committee, which would gather evidence and testimony of such crimes and would initiate international legal processes, received the support of almost 100 members of the European Parliament within two days with no intrusive urging. This initiative is important not only so that the guilty would be punished or would face sanctions both as per the legal acts of democratic Belarus and international law, but also so that it would be a preventative lesson to other authoritarian individuals in the post-Soviet space whose “expiration date” is soon approaching, including the one in Russia.

5. EU sanctions. Ursula von der Leyen has already spoken of sanctions. Thus, they will be imposed. It is not worth arguing over this. The core question is how widely and deeply such sanctions should range. Currently, it is important to ensure that the corresponding EU services would begin drafting lists of individuals upon whom sanctions could be applied. There need to be at least two lists – one to include individuals participating in the “stealing” of election results and another – persons who are responsible for and who participated in the pogroms and torture. The lists must include not only leaders, but also regular perpetrators of these crimes. The United States has developed a practice whereby the US Congress tasks individual departments with drafting such sanctions lists. The European Parliament should take the initiative for such a practice to be also conducted in the European Union without delay.

6. EU support for Belarus. When we talk about personal or sectoral sanctions, concerns are voiced that this will only push the current Lukashenko administration into the Kremlin’s embrace. In response to such concerns, it must be emphasised that any actions the illegitimate Lukashenko might take will also be illegitimate. Secondly, for the Kremlin, “friendship” with the “toxic” Lukashenko is, in the long term, dangerous (I wrote about this recently: https://martenscentre.eu/blog/belarus-trap-kremlin). However, the European Union must talk already today not only about sanctions against the Belarussian regime, but also about what aid democratic Belarus should receive. First of all, it must be fully clear that even the minor EU support (around EUR 100 million) that the EU has allocated to Lukashenko’s Belarus up to now will continue to be provided to Belarus’ civic organisations, communities or businesses while circumventing the Lukashenko regime. Nevertheless, the EU must clearly indicate right now what the EU support will look like when Belarus fully bids farewell to Lukashenko’s regime. The new civic Belarussian nation must know that the EU will offer them the same opportunities that were enjoyed by other Eastern Partnership countries following their democratic changes. These include the visa-free regime agreement, the free trade agreement and finally, the Association Agreement and vastly increased and tangible financial support. It is worth remembering that after the 2014 Maidan revolution, the EU issued Ukraine EUR 14 billion in financial support, which was accompanied by support from other financial institutions in the West. Considering Belarus’ different size, we can conclude that, based on the Ukrainian analogy, democratic Belarus could expect an EU financial aid package of up to EUR 4 billion. The EU should already begin drafting such specific support plans now.

7. The Andrei Sakharov Prize for Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya for her heroic struggle in the name of democracy and human rights. The international democratic community must suitably recognise what the new civic Belarussian nation achieved in its struggle for democratic change. As this struggle continues, this feat of the civic society as a whole deserves the utmost respect. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is a symbol of this feat, perhaps also her comrades – Maryia Kalesnikava and Veronika Tsepkalo should be awarded the honourable annual Andrei Sakharov Prize, which the European Parliament bequeaths every year to those with the greatest merit in the fight for democratic and human rights values. Nominations are accepted up to September 20 this year. We are witnesses to historic events. We are even participants to some extent. “For your and our freedom” – this means that Belarus’ freedom is also our freedom. I hope that soon it will also be Russia’s freedom. This is worth fighting for. Not only on the streets of Belarus, but also in the corridors of the West. A clear action plan is needed for this and I have sought to present a few initial guidelines.

2020.08.12

Statement on Belarus – Call for International Investigation

A statement by Mr Andrius KUBILIUS and Mr Ivan KRULKO, Co-Presidents of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly

We, the Co-Presidents of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, deplore disproportionate violence and torture of innocent People of Belarus by Mr Lukashenko regime, as well as its brutal attempts to hold fraudulent Presidential election leading to the 9th August 2020 and subsequent events.

We call for free and transparent counting of votes and immediate release of all political prisoners. As independent exit polls and a transparent work of regional election commissions not obeying the directives of illegitimate Mr Lukashenko show, the People of Belarus have made their choice for Ms Tichanovskaja, which has to be respected by the Belarusian authorities.

During the days of 9 to 12 August 2020, more than 6000 Belarusians were detained, more than 300 hospitalised, one confirmed dead and one in critical coma condition with lethal head injury made by a firearm. Mr Lukashenko and his regime have sanctioned these criminal actions, pogroms by OMON of innocent people throughout all Belarus, which are taking place up until now.

We call upon international investigation into the crimes committed by law enforcement authorities of Mr Lukashenko regime in Belarus against peaceful protesters demanding transparent, free and fair Presidential elections and immediate release of all political prisoners in Belarus.

We call upon the European Parliament to set up a parliamentary ad hoc inquiry committee on the crimes committed in Belarus, which would immediately start hearings of responsible Belarus authorities, will hold fact-finding missions in Belarus and be periodically reporting on its findings to the plenary sessions of the European Parliament.

We urge the EU Council to hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss the next steps of protecting the choice of the People of Belarus for Presidential election of Ms Tichanovskaja and to start developing the targeted sanctions against Mr Lukashenko and his regime, which were responsible for falsifying the elections and repressions of innocent people protesting against this injustice.

We call upon all international organisations responsible for the protection of human rights, such as UN Human Rights Council, OSCE, the International Criminal Court, to start their investigations into these crimes committed by Mr Lukashenko regime against the People in Belarus during a period of electoral process before and after 9 August 2020.

Photo copyright: AP photo

2020.08.10

Statement to the People of Belarus

By Andrius Kubilius, MEP, Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly

Despite the fact, that the electoral process that led to 9 August 2020 Presidential election in Belarus was not legitimate and was fabricated by Lukashenko authorities, the outcome is clear: majority of Belarus voted against Mr Lukashenko and in favor of Ms Tychanovskaja as is shown by official results, which were announced by several election commisions, which decided to calculate the votes in a fair and transparent way.

The falsified numbers announced by Lukashenko authorities do not represent the democratic will of the People of Belarus. The election process, administered by regime of Mr Lukashenko, did not comply with the minimum international standards for a credible process, democracy, transparency and the rule of law.

Mr Lukashenko is trying to steal the democratic, free and fair elections. He stole the candidates, members of election commissions, independent observers, and he is trying to steal the votes and the sovereignty from the People. The elections that were stolen will have to be returned to the People of Belarus and Belarus brought back to the European family. The EU and its western partners will need to demand to bring back a transparent recount calculation of votes or new free and fair elections and to release all political prisoners.

The EU needs to stand together in solidarity with those defending the Belarusian people against illegitimate regime of Mr Lukashenko.

The EU should start adopting restrictive measures by targeting the regime of Mr Lukashenko involved in repressions before and after the night of 9 August 2020, which were directed against independent media, journalists, social activists and peaceful protesters that led to grave violations of human rights, arrests, torture and casultiescasualties inflicted by the law enforcement authorities. The EU needs to deplores the repressions and the use of disproportionate and a brutal force by Lukashenko regime and his security forces against peaceful protestors and needs to  warns against any further use of force. These actions of Belarusian authorities will bear the consequences according to the international law.

The EU needs to stand together in solidarity with those defending the Belarusian people against illegitimate regime of Mr Lukashenko. The restrictive measures should also involve members of central and regional electoral commissions involved in a massive falsification of the election results.

The restrictive measures can be revised depending on the evolution of the situation in Belarus, in particular as regards returning as soon as possible to transparent recount of votes or to free and fair democratic Presidential election process and the liberation of all political prisoners Belarus. These measures will need to be designed not to harm the Belarusian population whose demands for change the EU shoud be ready to support. The EU will have to stop assisting financialy and by other means illegitimate Mr Lukashenko and his regime, which is the main obstacle to the development of Belarus.

The number of people lined up to vote on 9 August 2020, the day of the Presidential election and the number of votes given for Ms Tychanovskaja in those precincts where the votes were counted in a fair and transparent way, were clearly in contradiction with the announcement in the evening of exit polls made by the official authorities. We stand together with regional election commissions, which decided not to follow the directives of Lukashenko regime and chose a fair and open counting of the ballots.

We see a different nation of Belarus founded in the process of the presidential elections. This nation is not afraid of an aggressive and criminal regime of Mr Lukashenko. This nation will be defending its voice and the European future of Belarus. The duty of Europe now is to remain together with the People in helping them to build that future of a prosperous Belarus, which chose to stand against the dictatorship and repressions of Mr Lukashenko.

The nation of Belarus deserves a better future within the European family of prosperous and democratic countries. The EU will have to develop a policy on Belarus without Mr Lukashenko, which would foresee the next steps in European solidarity and association process with Belarus and its People.

Zyve free and democratic Belarus!

2020.06.18

Statement on Belarus – Changes in Belarus are truly needed

Members of the European Parliament:

Mr Andrius KUBILIUS, Ms Anna FOTYGA, Mr Michael GAHLER, Mr Andrzej Witold HALICKI, Ms Sandra KALNIETE, Ms Miriam LEXMANN, Mr Siegfried MURESAN, Mr Radosław SIKORSKI, Ms Viola VON CRAMON-TAUBADEL

STATEMENT ON BELARUS

Events in Belarus during recent weeks have demonstrated that citizens of Belarus want change. This is confirmed also by objective polls – people want a change in government, a change in policies. With 26 years of A. Lukashenko rule in a country hit by the pandemic and economic hardships, people want a real change – this is a clear signal sent by civil society to A. Lukashenko and to friends of Belarus in Europe.

Changes in Belarus are truly needed. They should neither frighten Belarusian citizens nor Belarusian authorities. The European Union is willing to help Belarus on its path towards these imminent changes. However, only Belarus itself can assume the responsibility to turn these changes into reality.

Changes can mean a change of the ruling leadership, or they can be policy changes implemented by those in power. History of world politics gives us several examples, where long-term leaders wisely listened to peacefully expressed demands for change of their citizens, and they themselves initiated a radical shift in their policy agenda to meet those demands. Belarus is now in a situation where both alternative scenarios are possible.

In the run-up to the Presidential elections in Belarus, we witness, as never before, high participation of civil society in support of alternative Presidential candidates to A. Lukashenko. There is a clearly visible division between those who want to maintain the status quo, and those seeking a real change.  Hence, on 9 August, the Belarusian people can make a truly strategic choice: to continue as before, or to choose a path of wise changes. Both decisions of the Belarusian people would be equally legitimate and respected, on the condition that they are taken during free and fair elections.

However, the possibility for the Belarusian people to choose in such free and fair elections depends largely on the personal decision of A. Lukashenko. Will he have the wisdom to hear the demands of his fellow citizens, or will he decide to suppress the hope for any change by non-democratic administrative means or even by force.

In case A. Lukashenko will choose the first option and will put an effort to demonstrate that he hears the peoples’ demand for change, it would be enough for him to uphold several basic principles:

  1. to stop harassment and persecution of politicians, civic and opposition activists, potential Presidential candidates, including Sergei Tikhanovski and Viktor Babariko, and to release those in custody, including Pavel Severinec and others;
  2. to allow registration of candidates who collected the necessary number of supporting signatures without any deliberate administrative hindrance;
  3. to ensure equal campaigning conditions, including in media, for all candidates;
  4. to guarantee a free, fair and transparent election process;
  5. to commit publicly to accept the results of the elections whatever the outcome;
  6. finally, to promise that if he wins the Presidential elections, he will ensure free and democratic parliamentary elections.

Such position of A. Lukashenko would allow for hope, that a policy change in Belarus is possible without a change of personalities in power.

This would also create conditions for the EU to open doors for Belarus to enjoy additional benefits through EU Eastern Partnership cooperation and support, which are urgently needed for Belarus in these unprecedented times when the country suffers from the pandemic and its economic fallout.

On the other hand, if A. Lukashenko once again ignores the voice of his fellow citizens, as was the case until now, and chooses again the second option, i.e. to deny the right to a free choice by administrative manipulations or even by force, – we will do our utmost to ensure that the democratic community responds with the most robust reaction vis-a-vis A. Lukashenko personally, his political entourage and the repressive structures.

Repressions, intimidation and arrests (including of members of the democratic opposition) are no way to conduct an election, or to bring a country together, but merely cynical steps designed to hold on to power at all costs. A. Lukashenka must understand that the EU will not tolerate such acts and that they should and will have consequences, including possible targeted sanctions on groups, individuals and entities, and will have an impact on EU decisions regarding the financial assistance to Belarus, including the resilience package.

We hope that this time this will not be necessary. Every authority has to listen to the voice of society, which demands change. Those, who do not want to hear, will remain in the margins of history. Those who listen and implement the demand, prove that they have the wisdom of a statesman. Otherwise, they must pay for the consequences of their actions.

Belarus is a strong and important European state. Strong states do not fear change. Change frightens only those who are weak.

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