On 21 September, members of the Coordination Council Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Olga Kovalkova and Pavel Latushko took part in a meeting of the International Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, where they spoke about the situation in Belarus. The meeting was live streamed on the official website of the European Parliament.
Before the meeting, in a joint press statement with European Parliament President David Sassoli, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya stressed that she asks the entire international community not to recognize the legality of the election of Alexander Lukashenko, since he is not a legitimate president in the eyes of the Belarusian people.
During her speech, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya showed those present pictures from the protests in Minsk, when a huge number of people gathered at the Minsk Hero City Stele, as well as photos of the demonstrators beaten after the arrest. She also showed a photo from the funeral of Alexander Vikhor, who died while in a pre-trial detention center in Gomel. Then she showed a famous photo of the protesting women standing with their hands joined together opposite the security forces.
“Let me emphasize again: Belarusian unrest is not a geopolitical revolution. It is not pro-Russian or anti-Russian. It is not pro-European or anti-European. This is a pro-Belarusian revolution. This is a democratic revolution. Our protests are exclusively peaceful and non-violent. We an example for the world how to fight for freedom and democracy. Our movement, led by women, embraces all levels of scociety – from the bottom. This summer, a new Belarus was born: one that the world has never seen before. We have opened a new chapter in our history,” said Tikhanovskaya.
The former presidential candidate stated that she continues to advocate the release of political prisoners, an end to police violence and the holding of new elections. She called the Coordination Council a platform for dialogue and resolution of the crisis, noting that the authorities refuse to talk with its representatives, forcing them to leave the country or imprisoning them.
“Only pressure will force the regime to establish a dialogue with people. Therefore, we continue to protest peacefully. We adhere non-violent forms of discipline and we want to keep doing this. At the rallies, people are chanting: “Leave”, “Tribunal” and “Freedom”.”
According to Tikhanovskaya, the Belarusians will never recognize the announced official election results, and she herself will never forget the voices of the detainees who were beaten and tortured at Okrestin Street. Tikhanovskaya described the last week’s resolution of the European Parliament on the situation Belarus as one of the most important decisions in the history of modern Belarus. Besides, she thanked the deputies for “recognizing the Coordination Council as the only legal body responsible for control over the peaceful transfer of power”.
“I also ask you to demonstrate solidarity with the people, support the Belarusian civil society and the media, which remain under constant pressure by the authorities. Consider the prosecution of those associated with human rights crimes in Belarus, such as rape and torture. I have compiled a list of people involved in the brutal persecution. Sanctions against them can be imposed in accordance with the European “Magnitsky Act”. I ask you not to finance the dictatorial regime and transfer support programs in Belarus from state to non-state bodies. I also ask you to reconsider partnerships with state organizations close to Lukashenko,” said Tikhanovskaya.
After her, Olga Kovalkova took the floor. She stated that a real European nation is being born in our country, and people are resisting violence and lawlessness on the part of the regime, and told the MEPs that in Grodno “masked thugs dragged an eight months pregnant woman into a paddy wagon”, and that the authorities threaten to remove children from those who are fighting for change in Belarus. Kovalkova urged to amount the conditions of imprisonment and detention of Pavel Severynets, Sergei Tikhanovsky, Viktor Babariko, Nikolai Statkevich, Maria Kolesnikova, Maksim Znak, Tatyana Kanevskaya and many others who were imprisoned for political convictions and civic positions to torture.
According to Kovalkova, Alexander Lukashenko’s relations with both the European Union and Russia cannot be the same.
“For the Europeans, helpful diplomats presented Lukashenko as the only guarantor of independent Belarus. But it was Lukashenko who signed the union state agreement, dragged Belarus into a military bloc with Russia, destroyed the Belarusian culture, language and education, arrested and imprisoned the patriots of Belarus. On the other hand, for a long time Lukashenko threatened Russia with a mythical threat from the West. For this, the regime received loans, diplomatic, informational and other support. He is still trying to do it. But apparently, the Kremlin is already pretty tired of Lukashenko,” she said.
Kovalkova said the Russian leadership is pushing Lukashenko towards constitutional reform. However, she believes that Lukashenko is not capable of dialogue with the people, therefore such a reform is possible only if he leaves the top post. According to the politician, a stirring has already begun in the power vertical and among the security forces, and the leadership of Belarus spends its last funds to ensure their loyalty.
Olga Kovalkova called on the EU authorities to take active measures to provide support to structures that are in opposition to the current regime, as well as to ordinary Belarusians.
“We urge you to recall the provisions of the Budapest Memorandum and demand a dialogue between the Belarusian society and the former president through the mediation of the EU, the U.S. and Russia. If a substantive dialogue is ensured, the European Union should provide significant financial and institutional support to the new democratically elected government of Belarus. And today we can talk about canceling visas for ordinary Belarusians – that would be a good help. We ask you to prepare assistance package for a democratic Belarus. Lukashenko’s regime has brought the country’s economy to a terrible state. The new democratic government will need international assistance to bring the country out of the socio-economic and political crisis,” Kovalkova said.
She reiterated the thesis about sanctions against those responsible for crimes, the termination of assistance to state structures from the EU, and the investigation of committed human rights violations. Kovalkova also asked to hold hearings on the situation in Belarus in the national parliaments of the EU member states and from 5 November, 2020, in accordance with the resolution of the European Parliament, no longer consider Lukashenko as the country’s leader (the expiration of his current presidential term – BelarusFeed note).
Then Pavel Latushko addressed the European Parliament by video link. He said that during the protests, the Belarusian authorities detained about 12,000 citizens, and also said that seven people died during this time (according to official data, three people died during the protests – BelarusFeed note) and there are missing persons. According to him, human rights defenders have information about more than 1,800 allegations of police violence, and about 800 people have so far left for Lithuania and Poland, becoming de facto refugees.
“No matter how hard the propaganda tries, it is the actions of the security forces that are compared to the Nazi Gestapo. It is the materials of the state media that have been compared to Goebbels’ propaganda. The paradox: the country, which had suffered from fascism in the last century, again faced this abomination in the 21st,” said Latushko.
According to Latushko, more than 40 Belarusian diplomats were repressed for their civil position.
“The Russian side, unfortunately, has a special position so far: not to notice or hear the Belarusian society, anyone except Lukashenko, despite the fact that he has repeatedly deceived Russia. This was especially evident on the eve of the election. I am convinced that there is no other way, and our Russian partners, will listen to the voice of the Belarusian people first of all in the interests of maintaining friendly relations. We are not interested in being friends with Russia against the EU, just as we have no thoughts of deepening relations with the EU against Russia,” Latushko said.
After the speeches of the MEPs, the floor was again given to the members of the Presidium of the Coordination Council. Olga Kovalkova was especially emotional: “Without new elections, we will continue to sit in prisons, we will be forced out of the country and we will be beaten. We must choose our own president.”
Pavel Latushko supported the proposal to create an information center for the Coordination Council in Brussels to promptly inform EU structures about the situation in Belarus. Latushko stressed the importance of the decision on non-recognition of Lukashenko as President of Belarus from 5 November by the structures of the European Union – the European Parliament and the European Commission. He noted that such decisions should also be made by national authorities in the EU member states. Latushko said that the European Union and Russia should ensure a dialogue between the authorities and civil society.