"Recognise the United Transitional Cabinet as the true representative of the people". Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s address to European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, 2022
"Dear Chairman Mcallister,
Distinguished members of the European Parliament,
Last week, an amazing thing happened. Our good friend, human rights defender, and personal hero for me and for many — Ales Bialacki — won the Nobel Peace Prize. Please let’s give him a round of applause!
Ales received the news about this prize in his prison cell. Two years ago he was here in the European Parliament, to receive the Sakharov Prize. In every speech, in every statement he repeated these words: "Don't forget about Belarus! Don’t forget about our political prisoners!"
Since then, the number of political prisoners has increased 10 times. As I speak today, 1350 political prisoners are being held in sub-human conditions, and this number is growing every day. Ales is just one of them.
Since then, more than 50 thousand people have been detained in Belarus. Many tortured by the KGB. Many have died. Hundreds of thousands have had to flee. First they escaped to Ukraine. Then they fled the war there.
Over the last two years, a great national tragedy has unfolded before our eyes. The unresolved political crisis in Belarus has escalated and infected the entire region.
It has led to a devastating war in Ukraine, which continues to kill thousands of innocent Ukranians to this day.
Ales Bialacki was among those who warned Belarusians about Russian imperialism many years ago. In the mid-ninety's, Ales organized the first ever protests against the forced integration with Russia.
Ales believed that Belarus would not survive the clutches of that dark empire. It’s such a pity that people did not listen to Ales back then. Instead they fell for the fake nostalgia of a populist dictator and his empty fantasies of a Soviet past.
And now we are paying the biggest price of all for our short-sightedness. The very existence of Belarus is at stake. Lukashenka — with the support of Putin — continues to sell our sovereignty, wipe out our national identity, trash civil society, and destroy any connection between Belarus and Europe.
To this day some Europeans still believe that it is Lukashenka who protects Belarus' independence. But day by day and year by year it is Lukashenka and his cronies who have sold the soul of our nation. And now he is on his mission to destroy our beloved country completely.
Feeling impunity, dictators raise the stakes. Now, Lukashenka is trying to legalize the permanent deployment of Russian troops on Belarus territory. We must call it what it is: it. is. occupation!
Lukashenka has shamed us all by allowing Belarus to be the launch pad for Russian missiles which have killed thousands of innocent people in Ukraine.
Now he wants to turn Belarus into a huge military base in order to terrorize Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, the entire European Union and NATO. And they are already talking about the deployment of nuclear weapons in Belarus. This must not happen.
Our position is clear:
- First. Belarus must end any participation in Russia’s brutal war.
- Second. Every Russian soldier must leave Belarus unconditionally.
- Third. All those involved in Russian attacks on Ukraine from Belarus must be held accountable.
There is another thing, which I also learned from Ales Bialacki: when changes happen, they happen quickly.
Therefore we have two tasks here:
- First, to make these changes happen as soon as possible.
- And the second: We have to be ready when they do happen.
We must not give Lukashenka any time to breathe. We must keep relentless pressure on his regime.
When you discuss sanctions, don’t forget about Lukashenka: he is also a war criminal, with a long record of horrific human rights abuses. We must deprive his regime of any loopholes that he can use to evade sanctions.
We must stay united. Dictators will try to divide us. Lukashenka could play his usual card by trading political prisoners in exchange for lifting sanctions. Don’t buy it. He’ll take the money and then start to arrest innocent people all over again.
All parties must stand firm on sanctions.
We must make the Kremlin withdraw all Russian troops. Out of Belarus. Out of Ukraine. Lukashenka might act like the Kremlin’s puppet, but he doesn’t represent the people. Belarus is not Russia.
I ask you today to reject Lukashenka’s fraudulent and deadly regime and work with us to build a democratic and free Belarus. Recognise the United Transitional Cabinet as the true representative of the people. We are ready to cooperate and implement joint projects within the Eastern Partnership and other programs.
We have already established such cooperation with the Council of Europe. For the first time in its history, the Council of Europe will not work with the official government, but with our democratic movement. We ask the European Parliament to do the same with Belarus.
In one of his last interviews about freedom, Ales Bialacki, our new Nobel Peace Prize laureate said: "It's our duty, that not only artists or writers, but every Belarusian should think about our future, how to rebuild our country, how to make our life safe and prosperous".
This is where we need your help, dear European parliamentarians. Help us to show that Belarus is welcome in Europe. Help us to draft a new democratic constitution and prepare new reforms and initiatives. Provide Belarusian students and young professionals with internships and scholarships. Help us to shape our future.
I believe that a Free Belarus will be the strongest possible sanction against Putin’s terror. And the best support for free Ukraine will be a 1,000 km protective border with a liberated Belarus. No longer a Russian colony.
I am sure that the path to peace in Europe is through freedom in Belarus. I am sure that the path to peace in Europe is through victory in Ukraine. I know it’s a difficult and painful path, but it is the right path. Let us walk it together. When we walk together, we are Europe.