Brussels “Office for Democratic Belarus” advocates lifting sanctions against the Belarusian dictatorship.
During an online press-conference at Radio Svaboda a co-chairman of the organizing committee for creation of the Belarusian Christian Democratic Party Vital Rymasheuski informed that the Office for Democratic Belarus and some Belarusian politicians are advocating shortening the black list of Belarusian officials.
Volha Stuzhynskaya, the head of the Office for Democratic Belarus, said answering to that: “When we received information that the lists of persons banned from entering the EU would be expanded, we really stated we do not think that expanding of visa sanctions at the moment is an effective method. On the contrary: to our mind, it could worsen the situation of political prisiners.
The lists should have been reviewed even because of the period of limitation, as there are people on the lists who had either died or left their positions, or were not connected with the crackdown on December 19. Those who are guilty should remain on the list. Moreover, those who were participants of the reprisal against Ales Byalyatski, for instance, should be added. But people who are not heavily guilty and were not linked with the crackdown on December 19, should be axed from these lists just because of the period of limitation.
There are a view journalists there, for instance, deputy editor-in-chief of “Sovetskaya Belorussia” Anna Shadrina (Hanna Shadryna), who was not even occupying this position at that time. And take Alyaksandr Zimouski, for instance. He left the position of the chairperson of the Belarusian state-run TV Channel (BT) and left the country. There were legitimate reasons for blacklisting him certainly. But I would not say it is vital now. And when we are speaking about university presidents… If we say that contacts between Belarusian and European universities should be developed, that we need more programs and reforms in our system of higher education, it looks illogical that presidents of leading universities are on the black list (presidents of universities had been blacklisted for expelling students who had taken part in the oppositional rallies and political organizations – a note by charter97.org).
I am trying to look at the relations between the EU and Belarus in the larger scheme of things, and to my mind, in case isolation of our country continues, no one is to win. If the present policy continues, it is to end in such a way that there would be no place left for existence of political parties and the civil society at all. My greatest fear is that in case more and more sanctions are imposed – though they may be logical, justified and so on – there would be less and less relations between our country and the EU, and the EU would disappear from the Belarusian space altogether, and we would drift more and more in the direction of the East. It is a choice between bad and worse for today, if we look at our relations with the EU,” Stuzhynskaya said.
Charter97.org website has asked Belarusian civil activists, political prisoners and their relatives to comment on the initiative of Stuzhynskaya.
Iryna bahdanava, a sister of a presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov, a leader of Free Belarus Now civil initiative:
“I am indignant at the statement of Volha Stuzhynskaya about shortening the list of Belarusian officials banned from entry to the EU. While we just have received a confirmation that political prisoners are being murdered in prisons, I find it uttermost cynicism to raise the issue of lifting sanctions against some officials. Invitation of Vice Prime Minister of Belarus Syarhei Rumas to a conference in Brussels in December last year by Volha Stuzhynskaya shocked me, but the call to shorten the black list amid intensifying crackdown in Belarus makes me ask a question: “Whose interests are represented in Europe by the Office for Democratic Belarus?” There is an impression that in sweat of her brow Ms Stuzhynskaya is lobbying interests of the criminal regime.”
Natallya Kalyada, Belarus Free Theatre director, one of the leaders of Free Belarus Now inititiave:
“When before the elections we addressed European politicians with a request to impose sanctions against the Belarusian regime, one of the high-ranking officials answered that sanctions would be imposed only after murdered persons appear in the streets of Minsk. Sanctions were not imposed then. Alyaksandr Lukashenka feels impunity, understanding that Europe is not able to deal with him. That is why political prisoners are tortured in prisons, and cases related to abductions and murders are not detected. Sanctions are necessary for the dictatorship to realize that an appropriate, exact and harsh reaction would follow its any unlawful act.”
Iryna Krasouskaya, widow of a businessman and public leader Anatol Krasouski, who had been abducted and murdered in Belarus, the leader of “We Remember” civil initiative:
“The discussion on sanctions blazes up again. It looks as if not each and every one still understands that after 17 years of Lukashenka’s regime there are no other arguments in conversation with the dictatorship. Let adherents of the sanctions’ easing count how many times the European Union, the parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the European parliament, the OSCE, the Interparliamentary Assembly, the Socialist International and other international organizations, as well as parliaments, MPs, presidents, ministers of numerous European countries, of the US and Canada, persuaded, offered, flirted, asked, made promises, and finally demanded to investigate the cases of politically motivated disappearances in Belarus, and to release political prisners. The only thing I can remember over all these years was a release of Alyasakndr Kazulin, Andrei Klimau and other political prisoners after economic sanctions against Belarusian enterprises were imposed by the US.
Maybe those who are lobbying lifting or easing sanctions, and who are saying that widening sanctions could make worse the conditions for political prisoners, should ask mothers, wives, relatives of Andrei Sannikov, Mikalai Statkevich, Zmitser Bandarenka, Zmitser Dashkevich and other political prisoners. I think they know the answer.
To lift sanctions today means to continue the practice of all-permissiveness, impunity and total lawlessness. And if a person from the list has left the country, it does not mean that his crime could be simply annulled and forgotten. The sanctions could be lifted only after the causes for which they had been imposed are eliminated. Investigation of disappearances, release and rehabilitation of political prisoners’, fair elections – these are initial conditions for lifting the sanctions.
In this discussion the arguments of people who are suffering from impossibility to save their loved ones, are much stronger and more explicable than the arguments of those who sit in an office many kilometers away from real life.”
Natallya Radzina, a political prisoner, charter97.org website editor-in-chief:
“The initiative of Volha Stuzhynskaya is not just politically absurd, but immoral. On the contrary, at the moment, while political prisoners are being killed in prisons, sanctions should be increased, and by no means eased.
I was amazed that Stuzhynskaya named Zimouski as a person who should be crossed out from the list of persons banned entry to the EU. It does not matter that Zimouski no longer works for the Belarusian TV. Such a person simply has no place in the EU for the work ha had been doing for 17 years as a mouthpiece of Belarusian propaganda.
We know that the Office for Democratic Belarus was in fact sending out its letters to the embassies of European countries in Belarus and to different international organizations. Let Ms Stuzhynskaya publish the texts of these letters. And judging by the things we have learnt, we cannot be certain about what they are asking Europe about, hiding behind a false concern about Belarusian national interests.
The black list of Belarusian officials should be expanded certainly. Besides, pinpoint economic sanctions on oil and potassium deliveries should be imposed. All these behind-the-scene motions of some persons are very dangerous and they play into the hands of Belarusian authorities and special services only.”
Iryna Khalip, a political prisoner, the wife of a presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov:
“An excellent idea! But why its authors have such a poor imagination? To my mind, visa sanctions should be lifted altogether, and all persons who “had been harmed by European repressions” should be bought tours to European spa-resorts at the expense of the European Commission. Poor chasteners would be able to repair health and have a rest. Besides, as aggrieved persons they should receive life pension.
But seriously, the vicious logics of the Office for democratic Belarus is baffling: it means that for instance some judge N., who had imprisoned several dozens dissenters, earned a retirement pension, and now he can go to the Promenade de la Croisette, cannot he? And when another KGB chairman is sent packing (they are not thrown out of work in a different way) – he can travel around Europe, as formally he is not a representative of the punitive system, cannot he? I want to say the words “the veriest nonsense”, but it is not even nonsense, it is meanness. The Office for Democratic Belarus, which does not represent anyone except a pair of emigrant, sends out letters to European structures offering to forgive retired assholes and open the doors to the civilized world to them, doesn’t it? In such a case, the office and these mean people are cut from the same cloth. But let them meet at some neutral territory, in China or Cuba, but not in Europe.
And one more thing: any citizen Joe Schmoe has every right to switch on a fax and start bombarding international structures with analogous letters: “I have a good life personally, I always have cracklings sizzling on my frying pan, so please do not treat like dirt leaders of my country in your enemy Brussels.” It will be a personal opinion of Mr Joe Schmoe, like it was Volha Stuzhynskaya’s personal opinion, even if Joe Schmoe calls himself “The Office for Prosperous Belarus”. So we should not even discuss it at all. I think. I hope bodies of the European Union have enough wisdom to ignore personal delusions of a bunch of emigrants, who have lost touch with the situation in Belarus long ago.”