It’s almost impossible for regime-fleeing Belarusians get humanitarian visas – opposition

  • 2022-08-09
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS - Belarusians fleeing the Lukashenko regime can only enter Lithuania illegally as they no longer have access to humanitarian Lithuanian visas, representatives of the Belarusian opposition say.

"After Lukashenko hijacked the Ryanair plane, it's practically impossible to get an EU visa while being in Belarus," Olga Karach, a Belarusian opposition representative and a member of the human rights organization Our House, told a press conference in Vilnius on Tuesday.

In her words, almost all EU countries have reduced their representation in Minsk to a minimum following the forced landing of the Ryanair passenger plane that was en route from Athens to Vilnius in May, 2020.

"Lithuania does not issue any visas at all," she said. "Belarusians have to flee illegally across the border."

The fall conscription of young men is starting in Belarus, Karach said, adding that young Belarusians might end up in prison if they refuse to serve in the army, and it's now difficult to escape the country.

"Today, for example, to get a Polish humanitarian visa, you have to pay speculators 500 US dollars or more just to register for an appointment. In some cases, the amount is as high as 1,500 US dollars. Just to register for a visit," Karach said.

She says such a situation is also weakening resistance to the Lukashenko regime in the country.

"Underground activities in Belarus could be more active but people realize that if they faced detention, they would simply not be able to escape, not be able to get visas and not be able to leave," Karach said.

Also attending the press conference, Belarusian opposition activist Veranika Tsepkala did not hide her disappointment with the work of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya's office in Vilnius. She says no tangible results have been achieved over the past two years, the opposition's actions are not coordinated, and there's a lack of transparency in the financial activities.

"We were surprised that despite the fact that Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya's office has been operating in Lithuania for two years, Lithuania has not recognized Lukashenko as a terrorist. The Forum of Democratic Forces of Belarus has sent a letter to put this issue on the parliament's agenda and to discuss it", she said. "We believe that by putting pressure on Lukashenko from all sides, we will achieve certain results."

Tsepkala also asked Lithuania to open a criminal case against Lukashenko and to take up the initiative to bring him before an international court for crimes against humanity.

Tuesday marks the second anniversary of democratic protests in Belarus.

On August 9, 2020, Belarus held a presidential election. Mass protests erupted in the country following the announcement that authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has led the country since 1994, had won again.