Thursday

26th May 2022

EU highlights suffering of Belarusian boy-prisoners

  • Minsk: Pro-democracy protests broke out after rigged elections last August (Photo: tut.by)

At least seven of Belarus' "political prisoners" were minors who needed special EU attention, 22 European ministers have said in a personal appeal.

Siarhei Hatskevich, Dzmitry Khars, Dzianis Khazei, Eduard Kudyniuk, David Zbaranski, Nikita Zolotarev, and Vital Prokharau were all just 16 or 17 years old when they were detained and sentenced to up to five years in juvenile detention.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Another regime victim, Dmitry Stakhovsky, who was 17 when arrested, recently "took his own life as he could no longer bear the pressure exerted on him by investigation officers," the EU politicians said in a joint letter to the heads of EU institutions this week, seen by EUobserver.

Children were also being used "as a tool to pressure their parents, who are being threatened with losing custody over their children for taking part in ongoing protests," they said.

"Since August 2020 [the start of pro-democracy demonstrations in Belarus], Belarusian children feel uncertainty and insecurity due to ... daily terror by the state," they added.

And EU officials should "be allowed to meet the detained minors and their parents in the nearest future", they said.

The Lithuanian-led appeal was co-signed by the foreign and youth ministers of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Luxembourg, Romania, and Slovenia.

It comes amid a new low in EU relations after Belarus hijacked a passenger plane flying to Vilnius to seize an opposition activist.

EU states have locked out Belarus from European aviation.

They are also drawing up sanctions on its banks and its oil and fertiliser firms and preparing to blacklist more officials in response.

But for its part, Russia took a leaf from Belarus' book when it also snatched an opposition activist off a plane two days ago.

Andrei Pivovarov, the head of Open Russia, a pro-democracy NGO, had boarded a flight from St. Petersburg to Warsaw when it was stopped before take off and police hauled him away.

"One more political prisoner in Russia today ... now held incommunicado at the Investigative Committee", Vladimir Kara-Murza, a fellow Russian activist, noted at the time.

"This case is not an isolated incident, but confirms a continuous pattern of shrinking space for civil society, the opposition, and critical voices, as well as independent media in the Russian Federation," an EU foreign service spokesman said on Tuesday.

"The European Union calls on the Russian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr Pivovarov," he added.

But his appeal was likely to fall on deaf ears, given Russia's attitude to EU diplomacy.

The last time an EU VIP - foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell - was in Moscow, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov expelled three European diplomats and lambasted the EU.

Borrell visit 2.0

The Portuguese foreign minister, Augusto Santos Silva, also met Lavrov at a seminar in Moscow on Monday to try to mend ties under the auspices of Portugal's EU presidency.

And, true to form, Russia pulled Pivovarov off his plane the same day, while Lavrov once more harangued the EU.

Russia and Europe might be able to cooperate on "little things", like trade, if the EU treated it with "equality and mutual respect", Lavrov said.

But, for the most part, his long speech attacked the EU's "unilateral illegal sanctions", Cold-War ideology, and "open interference in the internal affairs of Russia".

The EU's foreign policy, or "guiding principles", on Russia was "obviously incapable" of doing its job, Lavrov said.

And he blamed Kiev for ongoing warfare in Russia-occupied east Ukraine.

Interview

Belarus threatens to kill two UK dissidents

British citizenship and international awards are not enough to make Belarusian dissident Natalia Kaliada feel safe after a high-profile death threat.

Opinion

When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin

Neither Reagan nor Gorbachev achieved their goal at the famous Reykjavik summit of 1986. Despite that fact there are lessons that current leaders — particularly Vladimir Putin — could adopt from these two iconic leaders.

Opinion

Orbán's overtures to Moscow are distasteful and detrimental

Some Western European politicians are reviving the chimera of a negotiated settlement. None of this makes the current, half-hearted approach towards sanctioning Russia look better — nor does it shed any favourable light on the cravenness of Hungary's current government.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us