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27th Feb 2024

Belarus opposition to MEPs: ‘Peace in Europe starts with free Belarus’

  • Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya argued to MEPs not to forget about Belarus (Photo: European Parliament)
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Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya told MEPs on Thursday (13 October) that a free Belarus is one of the best security guarantees for Ukraine and Europe.

"A free Belarus will be the strongest possible sanction against [Russian president Vladimir] Putin's terror," she told the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee.

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"The best support for a free Ukraine will be a 1,000km protective border with a liberated Belarus, no longer with a Russian colony," the opposition leader said,

"I am sure that the path to peace in Europe is through freedom in Belarus. I am sure that the path to peace in Europe is through victory in Ukraine," she said.

Belarus president Alexander Lukashenka brutally repressed a wave of protests after his re-election in 2020, a vote widely seen as rigged.

The Kremlin helped Lukashenka survive the 2020 mass demonstrations, which had been the largest in the country's history.

"I know it is difficult and painful path, but it is the right path," Tsikhanouskaya added on Wednesday.

Lukashenka on Monday said that Belarus will deploy troops to a "joint military group" fighting in tandem with Russian forces, caving in to pressure from Putin.

The 68-year-old dictator, who has ruled Belarus since 1994, also said that his country will host more Russian troops.

Tsikhanouskaya said that Lukashenka is trying to legalise the permanent deployment of Russian troops on Belarus territory.

Lukashenka earlier accused Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine of training militants to attack Belarus.

Tsikhanouskaya, 40, said Lukashenka "wants to turn Belarus into huge military base in order to terrorise Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and the entire EU and Nato".

"We must call it what it is, it's occupation," she said, adding that the "very existence of Belarus is at stake".

Putin needs Lukashenka to be seen as less isolated, but also strategically, Belarus serves as an important stage for Russian forces, while Lukashenka tries to maintain his delicate diplomatic dance between Russia and the West.

Lukashenka has been reluctant to send his own troops to Ukraine, but he also cannot survive without Putin's support.

Belarus's armed forces total 48,000 personnel, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and have no combat experience.

Tsikhanouskaya told MEPs that if Lukashenka decided to send Belarusian troops to Ukraine, it will be "political suicide" for him.

Lukashenko announced an amnesty for some political prisoners, but Tsikhanouskaya warned MEPs not to be fooled by this.

Tsikhanouskaya said Lukashenka "shamed us all by allowing launch pad for Russian missiles, which killed thousands of innocent people."

Tsikhanouskaya said that under Lukashenka's regime 1,350 political prisoners are held in subhuman conditions, and over "50,000 people have been detained, and many have died".

"The unresolved political crisis in Belarus has escalated and infected the entire region," she said.

Tsikhanouskaya added that hundreds of thousands fled Belarus to Ukraine following the 2020 crackdown on protests, and were forced to flee further as Russia invaded the country.

Opinion

For Ukraine's sake, pass the EU due diligence directive

The EU Commission's 2022 CSDDD proposal did not include provisions incorporating "conflict due diligence", they were added, after the Russian invasion, by the European Parliament and Council into the final directive text — for Ukraine's sake, vote for it.

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