Tsikhanouskaya to EU officials: Belarus authorities might start trading political prisoners

Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya. Photo: Светлана Тихановская / Telegram

On June 21, Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya visited Luxembourg and Brussels and urged EU foreign affairs ministers to ‘keep their nerve and their wits’ when trying to help resolving the Belarusian issue, Politico reports.

According to her, there are rumours that Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makey is exploring the idea of a having a deal with the EU by offering to move detained journalists from prison to house arrest in exchange for a sanctions relief. She recalled that the EU lifted sanctions against Belarus in 2016, citing “improving” relations with Minsk and the release of six political prisoners.

“I urged ministers: don’t play this game any more. Be consistent in your policy, because it is a way to nowhere, until all the demands of civil society are fulfilled, like release of political prisoners, negotiations with civil society and new elections, no lifting of sanctions. I think ministers understand this very clearly now,” Politico quotes Tsikhanouskaya.

When asked about assertions that sanctions will hurt regular citizens, she told journalists: ‘The people are not suffering because of sanctions. They are suffering because of lawlessness.’

Luxembourg Foreign Minister hopes for international trial against Lukashenka

As of June 22, there are 502 political prisoners in Belarus, human rights centre Viasna reports.

As reported earlier, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya is visiting Belgium and Luxembourg at the invitation of HR/VP Josep Borrell. She discussed the fifth sanctions package against the Lukashenka regime with the head of the EU diplomacy on Monday, when EU foreign ministers also gave ‘political green light’ for sectoral sanctions on Belarus, hitting parts of its potash, oil and banking sectors.

On the same day, the bloc approved the fourth package of personal sanctions against the Belarusian regime. The bloc has frozen assets and imposed visa bans on 78 Belarusian officials (including members of Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s family) and 8 companies.

U.S. expands sanctions against Belarus