The Impact Of Tsikhanouskaya’s 15-Year Prison Sentence

A new salvo of sanctions and condemnations, frequently given in the absence of the judges, has fallen in Belarus in recent weeks. A semblance of a trial provoking the reaction of the European authorities, far from discouraging the opposition.

August 2020: Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, opponent of the newly re-elected President Alexander Lukashenko, takes refuge in Lithuania. March 2023: Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, whose husband Sergei Tikhanovski was sentenced at the end of 2021 to 18 years in prison, is still in Lithuania, however, she too is now subject to a very heavy sentence, lasting fifteen years in prison. detention, being accused among other things of high treason. The reaction of the one who presents herself as “national leader of Belarus” was quick. “This will not prevent me from continuing my fight,” claimed the opponent in an interview given to the Huffington Post.

“I have to continue my work, to draw attention to the humanitarian crisis in my country. I understand that I am threatened. I have been constantly since 2020 but you can’t stop doing what you are doing because of this sentence. It sounds crazy for the democratic world, but in Belarus it is our reality. »

Hundreds of Political Prisoners

This new wave of convictions in absentia (in the absence of the accused) should not weaken the opposition, which has been in shock for three years already. This, even if the sentences are harsh. Other figures on the country’s Coordinating Council have also received prison sentences. Journalist Andrzej Poczobut, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialatski, former Zerkalo media editor Marina Zolatava, as well as former director Ludmila Chekina, Aksana Zaretskaya, researchers Valeria Kasciuhova and Tatsiana Kuzina, l entrepreneur Bahdan Karavets, former culture minister Pavel Latushko, among others.

Prisoners number in the hundreds in Lukashenko’s Belarus. But that does not stop the naysayers. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s speech remains firm. “People are fighting for their country, their independence, their rights. And of course they sacrifice their freedom, some even lose their lives, but this is the price to pay to live in a free Belarus and we have seen that two and a half years later Belarusians are still ready to make this sacrifice . »

The leader, who continues to meet the major political figures of the Continent, calls on other countries to raise their voices. The war in Ukraine had negative consequences for Belarus, whose situation has now almost taken a back seat. A victory for Ukraine against Russia could, on the other hand, be beneficial for a country where the Russian army no longer hesitates to deploy ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons and which is increasingly dependent on the Kremlin every day.

The European Parliament Calls For Sanctions

MEPs reacted to this new round of condemnations, which “show the regime’s efforts to eliminate all civic engagement in the defense of human rights and to suppress all independent media in the country. The European Parliament issued a press release on March 15. “The European Union (EU) must expand its sanctions against Minsk. EU countries must prepare legal proceedings against Belarusian officials implicated in human rights violations. »

We must move from words to actions and although the leaders of the Continent are already grappling with the war in Ukraine, the Belarusian situation must not be forgotten. Especially since once again, the two events are linked. The deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus provoked a strong reaction from Josep Borrell, the head of European diplomacy. “Belarus’ hosting of Russian nuclear weapons would be an irresponsible escalation and a threat to European security. Belarus can still stop this, it’s their choice. The EU stands ready to react with new sanctions. »

The President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, also denounced the prison sentences addressed to Belarusian opponents, including that of Tsikhanouskaya. “The Lukashenko regime will be held responsible. Our efforts for a free Belarus continue. “The Maltese reiterated her support for Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya on March 25, during the “international day of solidarity with Belarus”: “Belarus will be free. On March 25, several solidarity marches took place in various countries. This is the case in Warsaw, as shown in a video filmed by EuroRadio and relayed by Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

Thus, if President Lukashenko and his regime thought they would definitively discourage their opponents with the latest sentences handed down, this is not verified in practice. On the contrary. The latest European Parliament resolution calling for an intensification of sanctions was approved by 557 votes for, 25 against and 40 abstentions. A place also symbolically saw the place in Brussels, the “mission for democratic Belarus” which will host cultural events, exhibitions and political meetings.

Among other concrete demands, more than 100 MEPs including Viola von Cramon (Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance) have asked UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin to exclude Belarus from qualifying for Euro 2024 football . The selection still played a first match on neutral ground, in Serbia, against Switzerland on March 25. Aleksander Ceferin ensures that the issue will be on the agenda of the next meetings of the European organization.

Opponents of Lukashenko have been battling for years as the leader serves his sixth term. The struggle is in full swing and convictions no longer scare Belarusians seeking freedom. They are no less unjust and must be denounced with as much vigor as ever.

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