Czech Foreign Ministry calls on Belarusian regime to end repression against its own citizens

On the anniversary of the disputed reelection of Alexander Lukashenko, the Foreign Ministry calls for the freeing of political prisoners.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 09.08.2021 14:06:00 (updated on 09.08.2021) Reading time: 3 minutes

The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on the Belarusian government to release all political prisoners, end repressions, and lead a dialogue with the citizens. The ministry posted a statement on its website to mark the anniversary of the presidential election in Belarus.

Last summer, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko officially won the elections and defended the post he has held since July 1, 1994. Many observers said opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya won more votes in the 2020 election than Lukashenko. Neither Czech Republic nor the European Union recognized the official election result.

The Czech Foreign Ministry pointed out the election was followed by months of demonstrations aand calls for the democratization of the country. The events of recent months show that the Belarussian regime is not slowing down its actions against the remaining opposition leaders and independent media, the ministry said, adding that the Belerusian regime has taken strict measures against EU diplomatic missions and is generally taking an increasingly confrontational approach.

"The Czech Republic has never recognized the rigged elections in Belarus. Lukashenko should stop fearing his own people and immediately end the repression, release all political prisoners and establish a real dialogue with its own citizens," Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhánek said on the ministry website.

The ministry added that the Czech Republic continues to help those who strive for a peaceful and democratic Belarus. It is not possible to for the ministry stand by and watch brutal violence being used against peaceful demonstrators in Belarus, escalating repression of civil society and independent journalists, and silencing of the remnants of the opposition.

“There are almost 600 political prisoners in jail, and a number of people have already been sentenced to heavy prison terms in mock trials. We know these methods from our own recent history and they do not belong in Europe today,” the ministry said.

This is one reason why the Czech Republic has supported several waves of sanctions adopted by the EU Council last year to punish those responsible for violent repression and intimidation, the ministry stated.

“The latest wave of sanctions is also targeting the economy and the unprecedented case of the hijacking of Ryanair and the arrest of Raman Pratasevich,” the ministry added.

Pratasevich moved to Poland in 2019 andin 2020 asked for political asylum there. He was arrested on May 23, 2021, by Belarusian authorities after his Ryanair flight was diverted to Minsk because of a false bomb threat conveyed by Belarusian air traffic control. The flight was headed from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania. Pratasevich has since been transferred to house arrest.

“Therefore, as it has done so many times in the past year and in many years before that, on this day, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs calls on the Belarusian government to release all political prisoners, to end all repression and to engage in dialogue with its own citizens,’ the ministry said,

“The people are asking for nothing less than respect for their own laws, basic civil rights and the holding of fair and free elections in accordance with Belarus's international obligations,” the ministry concluded.

The Czech Republic at the end of August 2020 created a CZK 10 million fund to help Belarusians persecuted by Alexander Lukashenko’s regime. “At the moment, there is primarily the priority of supporting independent media. It is necessary to ensure that citizens in Belarus have access to independent information,” then-foreign minister Tomáš Petříček said at the time.

Opposition leader Tsikhanouskaya was in Prague in June for five days to meet with Czech politicians. She has found asylum in Lithuania after the election due to concerns she would be jailed.

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