In an interview with Kera News, US diplomat Julie Fisher spoke about her plans to come to Belarus, discussed the feasibility of her meeting with opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya and gave her opinion on Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s currently being in power.
Julie Fisher has become the first US ambassador to Minsk in the last 13 years, but she is not able to arrive in the country due to… the lack of a Belarusian visa. According to the top official, she has been hoping to land in Minsk since the new year, and the United States is ‘waiting on the Belarusian side to take the appropriate actions’.
“For our part, the United States will not simply sit idly while we hope for a visa, but I will engage very directly. I’m going to leave this weekend, and I’m going to travel to Vilnius and to Warsaw, where I will engage directly with those allies you just mentioned who are so concerned, who share our concerns about developments in Belarus,” Julie Fisher stressed.
The interviewee also told Kera News journalists that she was going to meet Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who, in her view, ‘has been clear about her role’.
When asked whom she considers to be a legitimate leader of Belarus, Fisher called the question ‘complex’.
“Legitimacy, it seems to me, is something a leader earns. And given the conduct of the elections last August, Alyaksandr Lukashenka does not enjoy the legitimacy that an election would confer. There is no question about this, and it is quite true that Tsikhanouskaya earned a great deal of credibility during that campaign and as many believe those results would have shown. There can be no question that Alyaksandr Lukashenka remains in power and is in control of the government in Belarus. But there is a difference between legitimacy and the exercise of power,” Julie Fisher believes.
The US recognises the authorities in Minsk as ‘being in control of the government’, but they do not recognise that Lukasheka won the election in August, the diplomat reiterated.
For over a decade, the embassies of the two countries have been headed by сharges d’affaires. After the United States imposed sanctions on Belarus, Alyaksandr Lukashenka accused the US embassy of carrying out subversive activities. In 2008, Minsk recalled the ambassador from Washington and limited the number of American diplomats in the Belarusian capital to five. Before that there were 32 of them. For years, the American Embassy in Minsk has been operating in a reduced mode, without an ambassador. First, a limit was set to five diplomats, but gradually it was expanded to ten. In January 2019, Belarus lifted a cap on the number of US diplomats allowed in the country. Later, it was announced that the countries will finally appoint ambassadors. President Donald Trump appointed Julie Fisher as US Ambassador to Belarus in April 2020. Previously, she served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs at the Department of State. On December 16, the United States Senate confirmed her candidacy as ambassador.