Polish, Lithuanian ambassadors in UK appeal for support of Belarusians

Polish and Lithuanian ambassadors to Great Britain, in an article published by the British newspaper The Sunday Telegraph, appealed for support of Belarusian nation victimised by Alexander Lukashenko's regime.

Sunday was observed as the Day of International Solidarity with Belarus, marking six months since protests started against "Europe's last dictator," as the article referred to Lukashenko.

"As the Belarusian nation is falling victim to a brutal state crackdown following mass protests against the fraudulent presidential election result, we must show our support for the citizens of Belarus and our gratitude for their bravery and strong will," Polish Ambassador Arkady Rzegocki and Lithuanian Ambassador Renatas Norkus wrote jointly with Jonathan Eyal, Associate Director at the Royal United Services Institute think tank in an article published on Sunday.

They recalled that in the six months that have passed since the rigged presidential elections, Belarusians from all regions and walks of life have continuously demanded democracy and freedom, showing their perseverance and courage.

"Peaceful protesters, battered and bruised, remain defiant against a ruthless dictatorship which has resorted to unprecedented violence and police brutality," the article read.

"One powerful symbol of the Belarusian struggle has been the white-red-white flag. Any protester carrying this - the flag representing a free Belarus - can be fined, arrested or even beaten up. They are penalised simply for expressing their wish to strive towards a normal, democratic state, which respects the human rights of its citizens," the authors wrote.

"As both a European and an international community, we must not turn a blind eye to the plight of the Belarusians, especially as we went through a similar experience just three decades ago. Just like Europe united to defeat communism 30 years ago, it must lead the way now and show solidarity with the people of Belarus fighting for fair and democratic processes in their country," Rzegocki, Norkus and Eyal said.

They pointed out that just like Poland 40 years ago initiated a series of revolutions ending Soviet rule in Central and Eastern Europe and paved the way for democracy in the region, Belarus in August 2020 started a process that cannot be stopped or revoked. They argue that the West must invest in these changes and provide support to Belarusians, no matter how long it takes.

The authors of the article noted that Poland and Lithuania have already shown that they are ready to take the lead in defending a democratic Belarus. They pointed to the "Solidarity with Belarus" plan announced by Poland and the support provided by both countries for the oppressed Belarusians, medical assistance for victims of violence, assistance for students and scientists, including visa facilitation.

They also pointed out that on the initiative of several member states, including Poland and Lithuania, the European Union adopted three packages of sanctions against almost 100 people responsible for violating human rights and seven entities supporting the Lukashenko regime. In addition, the EU awarded EUR 24 million in support for civil society and presented the EU's economic plan for Democratic Belarus with specific and long-term comprehensive support for the country.

Rzegocki, Norkus and Eyal also wrote that Poland, Lithuania and the United Kingdom are among the most vocal supporters of Belarusian civil society and independent media.

"Today, as strongly as ever, we condemn the use of violence. We call on the Belarusian authorities to refrain from any further violent acts against their own people and to release immediately and unconditionally all those unjustly detained. On this momentous day, we stand with Belarus," they wrote.