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The EU must formulate Belarusian policy based on “values, not pictures” –

The exiled democratic opposition leader Svyatlana Zihanusskaya told EURACTIV in an exclusive interview with EURACTIV that the EU must exert continuous pressure on the Belarusian authoritarian regime until it responds to the call for dialogue.

The leader’s call came after European foreign ministers coordinated with the United States, Britain and Canada to impose new sanctions on 78 countries. Belarusian After the Ryanair flight was forced to land in Minsk last month, there were individuals and 8 entities on Monday (June 21).

Belarusian The authorities then detained the dissident journalist Raman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega, who were on a flight from Greece to Lithuania.

Qihanusskaya said that it is regrettable that between the third round of EU sanctions in December 2020, there have been no new sanctions, and no high-level talks or meetings have been organized.

“With the disappearance of these pictures, the pictures of the injured, the pictures of the demonstration, and the interest dropped,” she told EURACTIV.

The dissident who is currently in exile in Lithuania added that she hopes that the recent surge in interest following the mandatory suspension of Ryanair flights in Belarus is not just due to the participation of European passengers.

“I want to believe that this is not only because the Europeans were on the ship, but also because the reporter was kidnapped,” she said.

In a speech to European politicians, Qihanusskaya said, “Don’t make policies based on photos, but based on values. Don’t play the game of dealing with political prisoners.”

The EU is expected to impose further targeted economic sanctions on important sectors of the Belarusian regime in the near future, including potash fertilizer exports and petrochemical products.

The opposition forces insisted that Qihanusskaya’s victory in a contentious presidential election in August 2020 triggered a wave of protests against Alexander Lukashenko’s regime. She stated that she hoped that the sanctions would be “strong enough” , Let the regime understand that they must respond to our call for dialogue.”

“If not, I think the EU must be consistent on their policies and continue this path,” she added, warning that sanctions are “not a panacea.”

When asked about what she thinks is the reality in the near future, Qihanusskaya said that the regime can engage in dialogue with representatives of civil society or democratic countries.

“In fact, there may be many situations, but we have our goal-this year’s new elections, this is our goal,” she said.

The detained journalist Protasevich admitted to calling for protest and could be sentenced to five years in prison. After that, the Belarusian authorities marched on television and press conferences in an unsightly appearance, which his family described as the result of “abuse”. , Torture and threats. “

Qihanusskaya said that these displays were a “disgusting” failed attempt by the regime to create a wedge among democratic activists.

“No one blames him because we know that his task now is to survive there,” she said.

Zihanusskaya said that the Belarusian democratic forces did not expect this degree of cruelty to occur in August 2020, when she became a presidential candidate after her husband Sergey Tikhanovsky was arrested. The focus of everyone’s attention. After controversial polls, she was eventually forced to flee the country.

“People don’t get tired of fighting,” she said. “When you are under this kind of oppression, you will understand that your safety means the continuation of your battle. If you are in prison, you can’t do anything, so fight, but take care of yourself.”

“When you are free, you are more useful to society,” she added.

Since then, President Lukashenko managed to stay in power with the support of his key ally Russia.

“For the Kremlin, this toxic system has also become too expensive. I think they also want to solve this crisis. Belarus is like a bridge between Russia and Europe, and now this bridge is closed,” she Say.

Qihanusskaya added that a year has passed and the democratic opposition is still looking for a mediator to communicate with Russia on the situation in Belarus, but so far, little success has been achieved.

Last month, the Kremlin agreed to issue a second US$500 million of a US$1.5 billion loan to stabilize Moscow’s neighbors.

When asked what she learned during her last year in politics, she said: “I was destined, but I have to say that I have the best teachers: the president and the prime minister.”

“Maybe I am too naive, or too naive, but I really believe that politics should be open and transparent. But I understand that politics is carried out underground,” she added.

“You are talking about something, but to the public, you may have to say everything you discuss. I am absolutely open and trustworthy. So if someone can use it [against me], This is their conscience,” Qihanusskaya said.

[Edited by Josie Le Blond]

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