Photo by LOGAN WEAVER | @LGNWVR on Unsplash
MEPs say that the EU should consider imposing “comparable” sanctions on Belarus as it has done on Russia.
Such measures would also “act as a deterrent against any attempts to bypass the sanctions,” they assert.
The demand is included in a resolution that the European Parliament is due to vote on at the plenary in Strasbourg this week.
The European Parliament is also being asked by the S&D group to “strongly condemn the Lukashenka regime’s increasingly ruthless repression of the people of Belarus”.
The plenary will also hear similar calls for what they call the “immediate and unconditional” release of recently convicted Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski, journalist Andrzej Poczobut, and the 1,445 reportedly detained “political prisoners”.
Deputies said on Wednesday that they “denounce the politically-motivated show trials and unjust sentences against leaders of democratic Belarus, protestors, journalists, trade union leaders and activists.”
An S&D statement commended “the brave people of Belarus, who have resisted systematic repression by the Lukashenka regime for years now and still found the resolve to stand up to the regime’s complicity in the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.”
Thijs Reuten, S&D shadow rapporteur for Belarus and negotiator of the resolution, said: “I firmly believe that, one day, our Parliament will discuss Belarus’s bright European future.
“But today, its cruel dictator is still trying to crush the pro-democracy partisan movements by stepping up its shameful show trials against human rights defenders and political activists. Because, like Putin, Lukashenka fears nothing more than democracy. In this light, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto’s recent Minsk trip was beyond outrageous. You simply do not discuss peace, whatever Viktor Orban thinks that means, with an illegitimate regime complicit in Russia’s brutal war.
“I condemn last week’s sentencing of Sakharov Prize laureate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the fearless leader of the Belarusian opposition, to 15 years in prison in absentia. Human rights heroes like Ales Bialiatski must be freed instantly. We must find new ways to put pressure on the regime to release all political prisoners. The European Union should finally ensure that the Lukashenka regime is subject to the exact same level of sanctions as Russia.”
The MEP added, “There is no excuse to shield Putin’s co-aggressor. Everyone complicit in the regime’s repression – including judges, prosecutors, law enforcement, prison and penal colony officials – should be subjected to sanctions. All EU-based companies should end their relations with any Belarusian suppliers that support the violent Lukashenka regime. I look forward to the day Belarus is free.”
According to the Human Rights Centre ‘Viasna’, about 1,445 political prisoners are said to be currently detained in Belarusian jails and penal colonies. Ales Bialiatski, ‘Viasna’ founder and Nobel Peace Prize 2022 laureate, is among those who were imprisoned by the current regime.
It is claimed that more were, or continue to be, sentenced to decade-long sentences. Polish-Belarusian journalist Andrzej Poczobut was sentenced to eight years in prison on 8 February 2023.
Meanwhile, the ECR Group says in a separate statement that it is “one of the strongest supporters of the Belarusian opposition and warned long before the Russian invasion of Ukraine that Belarusian dictator Lukashenka was a stooge of Putin.”
During the plenary debate on the matter, which took place during the February session, ECR Foreign Affairs Coordinator Anna Fotyga told colleagues that: “You can’t negotiate with Lukashenka, as he serves the interest of the Kremlin, not the Belarusian people.”
The ECR Group says it “stands united in support of freedom for Poczobut, Bialiatski and all Belarusian people.”