RIGA - Without a free Belarus there is no free Europe, Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said on Friday at the international security and political forum Riga Conference 2020.
She noted that three months have passed already since the start of the historic protests in Belarus. During this time, the Belarusians have gone a long way and learned what they are as people and paid a high price for their dignity.
The Belarusian opposition leader indicated that 18,000 people have so far been detained at the mass protests that started following the presidential elections, thousands have been tortured and eight have been killed. Meanwhile, 850 people feature as suspects in politically motivated criminal probes and 120 have become political prisoners.
"Sadly, the reprisals in Belarus are so massive that these figures sound like dry statistics, but there are real people with real histories behind these figures," Tsikhanouskaya said.
She indicated that the system in Belarus is protecting itself instead of the people and that impunity emboldens police violence towards people. Tsikhanouskaya underlined that the protests in Belarus are peaceful and that the protesters' demands remain unchanged - the main goal is to achieve a new, free and fair presidential election with the participation of international observers by April 2021.
"The election must precede constitutional reforms. Alexander Lukashenko should start talks on a peaceful change of power and resign. All political prisoners and detainees have to be released and exonerated. The persons who committed the crimes must be punished," the opposition leader said.
Tsikhanouskaya emphasized that Belarusians are strong and courageous, they are capable of self-organization and achieving democratic change in their country. The Belarusian people needs the support of friends and international partners. The European Union should expand its sanctions list, including into it Belarus' state-owned companies that are supporting the current regime, the opposition leader said.
"I believe that the current crisis can be resolved inside Belarus. We have gone a long way and Belarus will be free," Tsikhanouskaya concluded.