VILNIUS - Russia has de facto occupied Belarus earlier this year but ordinary people in the country are supporting the Ukrainians in their war with Moscow, Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya says.
"In 2022, our country is de facto under military occupation. Should Ukraine fall, there will be no future but slavery inside the Russian empire for Belarus, there will be no peaceful future for Europe either," she said during the ongoing Kalinowski Forum at the Lithuanian parliament.
Ordinary Belarusians are supporting Ukraine as much as they can as the neighboring country is fighting Russia's invasion.
"Cyber partisans have blocked Russian transports by hacking railway systems. Citizens, often mere teenagers, report the positions and moves of Russian troops in Belarus. (…) Our real heroes, Belarusian railway workers, just two days ago completely disrupted the railway connection between Belarus and Ukraine so that trains with Russian equipment couldn’t be transferred to Ukraine," Tsikhanouskaya said, adding that Belarusian people are doing so despite the constant threat of jail.
The ex-presidential candidate, who was forced to flee the country after the presidential election, says the events in Ukraine are a wake-up call for the world.
"The main lesson all of us should learn is that dictators cannot be re-educated and definitely cannot be appeased. Tyrant Lukashenko enjoys his personal impunity and, believe me, he will try to fool you again and pretend to be a peacemaker," Tsikhanouskaya said.
Also speaking at the conference, Michael Carpenter, a former national security adviser to US President Joe Biden and now US Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, said the free world must help both Ukraine and Belarus.
The United States has provided weapons to Ukraine and is also providing humanitarian assistance, as well as plans further sanctions for Russia and Belarus.
"We will continue to put pressure on the tyrant in Minsk, we will continue to call for the release of all political prisoners, and we will continue to demand and document and build cases against htose who torture citizens in Belarus," he said.
Speaker of the Lithuanian Seimas Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen says the future of Europe is currently being decided in Ukraine, adding that there are many forms and ways of support but the first step is to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
"This is necessary to stop mass civilian casualties, to create humanitarian corridors for the delivery of aid and to protect critical infrastructure such as nuclear power plants", she pointed out. "We believe that this solution must be taken up first by the United Nations and, if it cannot, by a coalition of willing and able states."
She also called for Ukraine to be granted EU candidate status as soon as possible, stressing that in the current situation it was more important than ever for the democratic world to be united.
"It is important to keep it (unity - BNS) over the long haul. I am sure that the Kremlin regime is now betting that Western unity will start to fade, especially because of the rising energy prices and the political cycles that democracies inevitably enter. Therefore, we need to maintain our strategic patience and continue to show unity through our words and actions," said Seimas speaker said.
Despite the war in Ukraine, she said, it was important not to forget to support Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Armenia and to prepare a new ambitious political agenda for these countries.
In 2022, our country is de facto under military occupation.
Lithuania's parliament is on Monday hosting an international forum to mobilize the democratic community for a more determined fight against the regimes of Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko.
The forum is named after Konstantinas Kalinauskas (also known as Vincent Kanstancin Kalinouski in Belarusian and Wincenty Konstanty Kalinowski in Polish), a leader of national revival in Poland, Lithuania and Belarus and one of the commanders of the 1863-1864 uprising against Tsarist Russia.
Its participants will discuss what more the democratic community around the world should do to stop the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his aggression in Ukraine and the oppression of democracy and freedom in Belarus.