OSCE chairperson about dialogue between authorities, opposition: Release of political prisoners first

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Ann Linde. Kyiv, 19 January 2021. Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine

On January 19, Ann Linde, Sweden’s Foreign Minister and the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, started her two-day visit to Kyiv. During the joint press conference with her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, the top official commented on the situation in eastern Ukraine and made mention of the recent events in Belarus.

According to the minister, what is going on in the country requires the OSCE’s ‘continuous attention’, and for that reason visiting Ukraine became her first trip after Sweden’s taking over the chairpersonship in the organisation.

Ann Linde promised that Sweden would continue previous chairs’ work on the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Donbas, since one of their priorities was defending the European security order.

“I welcome the significant reduction in ceasefire violations since July, 27. This makes the everyday life of people in the affected areas safer. Ukraine deserves much credit for its part in this process,” she stressed.

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When asked by RFE/RL journalist Volha Litvinava about the OSCE’s role in settling the post-election crisis in Belarus, the Swedish diplomat reiterated that the organisation would like to facilitate the dialogue between the Belarusian regime and the opposition. But several conditions seem to be in place.

“I discussed this issue with the Belarusian Minister of Foreign Affairs [Uladzimir Makey] and the leader of the opposition [Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya]. Unfortunately, it is not possible to have a dialogue [between pro-Lukashenka officials and opposition leaders] now because there is a need to release all the political prisoners and those who were forced out of country should be allowed to go back,” she said.

As of January 20, there are 189 names on the list of Belarusian political prisoners.

The politician also recalled 80 recommendations made to the Republic of Belarus by the OSCE Moscow Mechanism rapporteur Wolfgang Benedek in early November, saying that the organisation was going to build their work on the Belarusian issue upon them.

On 17 September, the Moscow Mechanism of the human dimension of OSCE was invoked by 17 participating states with regard to credible reports of human rights violations before, during and after the presidential election of 9 August 2020 in the Republic of Belarus. The Mechanism, agreed by consensus by the OSCE participating states, allows for an investigation to be launched without consensus and independently of the OSCE Chairmanship, institutions and decision-making bodies if one state, supported by at least nine others, ‘considers that a particularly serious threat to the fulfilment of the provisions of the [OSCE] human dimension has arisen in another participating state’.

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