Joint statement on another wave of reprisals against Belarusian human rights activists and media
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky
Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak
Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Dmytro Razumkov
Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Oleksiy Danilov
Chief of the Security Service of Ukraine Ivan Bakanov
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba
Today, July 14, 2021, security forces of the Alexander Lukashenko regime launched another attack on the Belarusian civil society. A wave of searches and arrests of human rights defenders and journalists swept through Belarus again.
Searches took place at homes of some activists and offices of human rights organizations: Viasna Human Rights Centre, Belarusian Association of Journalists, NGO “Names”, movement “For Freedom”, Legal Transformation Center Lawtrend, Belarusian Helsinki Committee, World Association of Belarusians “Baćkaŭščyna”, NGO “Gender Perspectives”, Office of European Expertise and Communications, BEROC Economic Research Center. Famous Belarusian human rights activists Ales Bialiatski, Valentin Stefanovich, Vladimir Labkovich, Andrei Paluda, Sergei Sys, Olga Smolyanko, Sergei Matskevich, Tamara Matskevich, Nikolai Sharakh, Kirill Kofanov, Igor Kazmerchak, and Alyona Lapta were searched. It is currently known that Valentin Stefanovich, Vladimir Labkovich, Andrei Paluda, and Sergei Sys have been detained.
The attack on human rights defenders is taking place all over the country. Apart from Minsk, reports come from Brest, Hrodna, Orsha, Polotsk, Mozyr and Borisov. In Orsha, security forces detained Igor Kazmerchak, the editor of local Orsha.eu portal, and took him in an unknown direction. A local human rights activist, Viktor Sazonov, disappeared in Hrodna after a search. Nikolai Sharakh, head of the Free Trade Unions branch in Polotsk, is also being searched. Vladimir Tselepun, head of the local branch of the Viasna Human Rights Centre in Mozyr, has not got in touch for 10 hours. Human rights activist Oleg Matskevich was detained in Borisov. In Brest, human rights activist Kirill Kofanov from the Human Constanta organization was searched and his equipment was confiscated.
The Lukashenko regime accuses human rights activists, who documented violations by security forces during the crackdown on peaceful protests in 2020-2021 and helped victims of reprisals, of plotting mass riots. Everyone who is familiar with the activities of these organizations, is aware of the obvious absurd nature of these accusations and their bright political coloring.
Officials of the Lukashenko regime make no secret of their intention to repress or oust from Belarus all those who had an independent and impartial position – political opponents, human rights defenders, and independent media. In particular, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus Vladimir Makei in his interview of April 10, 2021 actually blackmails democratic countries with the intention to destroy the Belarusian civil society if the sanctions policy is strengthened. During a meeting with Vladimir Putin on July 13, Alexander Lukashenko himself accused independent media and non-governmental organizations of terrorism.
Over a year since the beginning of peaceful protests in Belarus, almost 40,000 people have been illegally detained and tortured, and more than 4,000 protesters, journalists, and human rights defenders have been prosecuted. The work of leading independent media, human rights organizations and opposition political parties has been blocked. Regime officials stop at nothing to detain opponents. This is clearly demonstrated, in particular, by the unprecedented act of aviation piracy committed on May 23 this year, when the Belarusian secret services forcibly landed a Ryanair plane in Minsk with former editor of opposition NEXTA Telegram channel Raman Pratasevich on board.
No country in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union has seen such a scale of political reprisals since the Iron Curtain fell. To date, more than 500 people have been recognized as political prisoners in Belarus. At least 1,500 are in prison and thousands more are under investigation on politically motivated charges.
All this is happening against the background of statements by officials of the Lukashenko regime about the resumption of flights to the occupied Crimea, the establishment of cooperation with the occupation administrations of occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine. This indicates a final change in the political course of the Lukashenko regime. Belarus ruled by Lukashenko became an ally of the Russian Federation in the war against Ukraine and the entire civilized world.
Enlisting the political and financial support of the Russian Federation, the Lukashenko regime has set a course to sever ties with the civilized world, to demonstratively ignore all its human rights obligations, and to seek to destroy Belarusian civil society completely.
Given the impact of the situation in the Republic of Belarus on Ukraine, as well as the dangers associated with the further integration of Belarus into the orbit of the Russian Federation, we call on the Office of the President of Ukraine, the National Security and Defense Council, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine to:
– Terminate diplomatic relations with representatives of the illegitimate and anti-democratic regime of Alexander Lukashenko;
– Express public support for the civil society of Belarus;
– Prohibit any economic cooperation with Belarusian state-owned enterprises, which are effectively controlled by Alexander Lukashenko’s entourage;
– Impose tough economic sanctions on all officials of the Lukashenko regime and affiliated businesses;
– Suspend cooperation with law enforcement and security agencies of the Lukashenko regime and prohibit the extradition of Belarusian citizens at the request of officials of the Republic of Belarus;
– Urgently hold a meeting of the National Security and Defense Council to discuss the risks associated with the processes of deepening cooperation between the Lukashenko regime and the Russian Federation and the actual involvement of Belarus in the hybrid war between Russia and Ukraine;
– Address the governments of democratic countries with a proposal for solidarity against the crackdown on civil society in Belarus by the Lukashenko regime.
Representatives of the signatory organizations are ready to take part in consultations with the Government of Ukraine on responses to systemic and mass human rights violations in the Republic of Belarus.
Human Rights Center Postup
Educational Human Rights House Chernihiv
Free Belarus Center
ZMINA Human Rights Centre
Free Russia House
Public reception office of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union in Rivne
NGO “Civil Journalism Agency “MIST”
Kharkiv Regional Foundation “Public Alternative”
Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
Project “Without Borders”
Human Rights Action Center
NGO “Active Civil Position”
NGO “Blue Bird”
Center for Civil Liberties
Civic initiative “Live as a Master”
NGO “Theater of Change”
Civic network OPORA
Kyiv Educational Center “Space of Tolerance”ПІДПИСАТИ