The director of the Belarus Free Theatre says about the results of the talks in the US Government.
Representatives of the Belarusian democratic movement, namely Alyaksandr Kazulin, Iryna Bahdanava (Andrei Sannikov’s sister), Yulia Slutskaya, Eva Nyaklyaeva (Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu’s daughter), had a number of important meetings with the US top politicians last week. Director of the Belarus Free Theatre Natalia Kaliada, an active participant of the talks, gave an exclusive interview to Euroradio and said about the results of the negotiaions.
- Where have you been? In what places did the Belarusian delegation managed to show itself?
- Our visit has ended. It was very successful. We started with a meeting in the US Congress. The first meeting was with Congressman Christopher Smith, who worked on the Belarus Democracy Act. He is going to propose it to the Congress again. We gained support of other congressmen who agree with the idea of the Democracy Act and the support of John Boehner, the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States.
We also had meetings in the US National Security Council and talked with senators Durbin, Cardin, Lieberman. They are the people who actively deal with Belarusian affairs.
- Were all these meetings equally important?
- Yes, they were. They cover different directions of activity of the American government on Belarus. This demonstrates strong interests in putting an end to all these terrifying events in Belarus.
- These events in Belarus include, for example, the sentence to Vasil Parfyankou. What’s was a reaction of the US government to this?
- It was a double shock for us. We were told about this sentence when we were having a meeting in the US Department of State. We were discussing the details regarding how one should help Belarus, how strict the America’s stance toward the regime in our country should be, when we were told that Parfyankou had got four years… Shock was a reaction of both parties.
- In your opinion, will the United States express a really critical reaction to the events in Belarus?
- We are discussing not only the Democracy Act, but also a resolution of the US Congress. This is the major issue. Our group asked, and our appeals were spoken out by Alyaksandr Kazulin, to recognize the election results invalid and recognize Alyaksandr Lukashenka illegitimate president. We want new presidential elections to be announced just after all political prisoners are released and all accusations are dropped from them. We also said that President Obama should at last speak on the situation in Belarus.
- What about sanctions?
- Sanctions are the issue that Washington has been working on since the previous visits. The sanctions were imposed on January 31, a week after a meeting with Hillary Clinton and the hearings, where I had addressed the US Senate. While Europe betrayed the Belarusians once again taking care only about Europe’s geopolitical interests, warm homes and comfortable cars, the American government imposed economic sanctions.
- Are there any hopes for increasing financial aid to the democratic forces?
- Surely! But we said that the aid must be targeted. It must be provided for the organizations that really work. The aid must not help organizations just to survive, as it was before. Support must be given to the organizations that really can influence the situation. Now! We need great support for the media, both in the country and abroad. People in Belarus sometimes do not know what is going on in the country!
We also spoke about the campaign Free Belarus Now. It has been launched in London on an initiative of families of political prisoners. The campaign is supported by Tom Stoppard and Vaclav Havel… All contacts with artists, that the Free Theatre has collected for the years its activity, now work to release the Belarusian political prisoners.
- By the way, what concerns the Free Theatre. What does the company do? How many performances you show? Do they meet success?
- We are working! We’ve start working on new projects. We give play every day. As it always has been with the Free Theatre, all tickers are sold out around the world, including Australia and Asia. Audience here is very pleasant. People support us and show their interest in events in Belarus.
By the way, we are giving a performance on February 21. It is the last performance in our Chicago tour. We devoted it to everyone who is in the KGB jail or under house arrest now, to all who has faced violence in Belarus. We are working as usual. Through our performances we spread knowledge about our country and the art in our country.