Attack on Volkov shows regimes don’t care about law – Tsikhanouskaya

  • 2024-03-14
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS - The recent attack on Leonid Volkov, an ally of late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, shows that the rule of law does not exist for criminal regimes, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the Vilnius-based Belarusian opposition leader, says.

"The attack on a member of Navalny's team raises a lot of questions and is an important reminder that we are dealing with criminal regimes and international law and rules do not exist for them, they are ready to do anything to crack down on political opponents," she told BNS on Wednesday.

Belarusians who have fled the Lukashenko regime do not feel safe abroad either, with opposition figures reporting being followed on the streets and receiving anonymous threatening messages, sje added.

And it is not safe to travel even in Europe as the cases of Raman Pratasevich and Andrey Gniot, a film director detained in Serbia under a Belarusian arrest warrant, show.

"Unfortunately, Volkov's case is not unique, and many Belarusians do not feel safe either, even in free democratic countries. Many Belarusian activists have already faced being followed on the streets in Lithuania and Poland, being photographed by strangers and receiving anonymous threats", Tsikhanouskaya said.

"Traveling has also become dangerous, and we all remember what happened with the Ryanair plane, the detention of Pratasevich, and now the regime is actively using Interpol to track down Belarusians abroad. Filmmaker Gniot is now in a Serbian prison at Lukashenko's request, and we are now trying to rescue him," she added.

The goal of such attacks is to scare and paralyze the work of democratic power structures abroad, the Belarusian opposition leader said, adding that risks must be prevented, people must be vigilant, even though it is impossible to prevent absolutely all attacks.

"Of course, there's no need to panic, but people need to take security measures, and we also count on the help of democratic countries. It is not possible to prevent all possible risks to Belarusians, but we are trying to minimize them. We are working with democratic states to expose agents of the regimes," she said.

Tsikhanouskaya also asked Lithuania to support Belarusians in Lithuania, especially those who have left because of the repressions, and to grant them political asylum, to simplify migration procedures, and not to require them to produce documents that would make it compulsory for them to return to Belarus, as this is a "straight path to prison".

Volkov was assaulted on Tuesday night in a car on Zuvedru Street in Vilnius, close to his home. Navalny's spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said that the attacker broke the car window, tear-gassed him and started hitting Volkov with a hammer.

The suspects have not yet been identified.