20 January 2018, Saturday, 0:40

US Department of State insists on release of political prisoners


The release of political prisoners remains high on the United State's agenda in relation to Belarus.

A delegation of the US Department of State led by Daniel Rosenblum, a coordinator of US Assistance to Europe and Eurasia, was on a visit to Minsk on January 27-29.

A number of meetings in the ministries of foreign affairs, healthcare, labour and social protection were held. On the last day of the visit, Mr Rosenblum met with seven leaders of Belarusian opposition organisations and movements: Iryna Vershtard (Belarusian Social Democratic Party Hramada), Syarhei Kalyakin (Belarusian Left Party Fair World), Anatol Lyabedzka (United Civil Party), Alyaksandr Milinkevich (For Freedom movement), Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu (Tell the Truth civil champaign), Vital Rymasheuski (organising committee to create Belarusian Christian Democracy party) and Alyaksei Yanukevich (Belarusian Popular Front).

UCP leader Anatol Lyabedzka spoke with BelaPAN news agency about the meeting.

“The meeting took 2.5 hours. It was for dessert, as Mr Rosenblum said,” he noted. According to the politician, the situation in Belarus and development prospects were discussed. The participants spoke about political prisoners, high-profile disappearances, free elections and a dialogue with the authorities.

Lyabedzka says the release of political prisoners as well as human rights observance by Minsk and holding free elections remains high on the US agenda in relation to Belarus. “Rymasheuski and I emphasised the importance of carrying out free elections. If we don't achieve it, names of political prisoners will just change after another election campaign,” the politician said. He also noted that the issue of the abducted people cannot be put on the shelve. “The representative of the Department of State wrote it down in his notebook,” Lyabedzka said.

The UCP leader prepared three questions for Mr Rosenblum: “What will new US Secretary of State John Kerry emphases in the message to Belarus?” “Are American analysts right when they say about a possible agreement between Obama and Putin on giving control over the post-Soviet countries to the Kremlin?” and “Did the US government or embassy have contacts with a group of American analysts before their recent visit to Lukashenka?”

“To the first question, Mr Rosenblum answered that the situation would depend on Kerry's team, but we should not expect radical moves. The US policy towards Belarus will be consistent. The second answer was: there is a range of issues, in which the US and Russia cooperate and have a concerted position, in particular, fight against terrorism and deterring Iran and North Korea. There are also debate topics, such as the post-Soviet area. So, no arrangements between Obama and Putin can be expected. The third answer was: the analysts came on their own initiative, they didn't have any tasks and instructions,” Lyabedzka said.

“The visit by Rosenblum shows the interest of the United States in Belarus. It is good that an official of such a level is interested in our situation. We have an opportunity to ask questions and present our position without intermediaries,” the UCP leader said.