Declare Russian occupation of Belarus and derecognize the Lukashenka regime as the legitimate governing body of Belarus

Dear Mr. President and the Members of the United States Congress:

The Belarusian Americans stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and condemn Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine in the strongest possible terms. We grieve for the innocent victims and denounce the atrocities and genocide committed by the Russian military in Ukraine. We also condemn the co-conspiracy of the Lukashenka regime to attack Ukraine and allow the Russian troops to use the territory of Belarus for the invasion.

We commend the Biden-Harris administration’s ongoing efforts to support Ukraine and stop the atrocious war waged by Putin’s Russia and supported by the Lukashenka regime and respectfully demand further action.

We call on the Biden-Harris administration and the U.S. Congress to:

  • Declare and recognize the Republic of Belarus is illegally occupied by Russia and demand the complete withdrawal of the Russian troops from Belarus;
  • Declare and recognize Lukashenka and the current government of Belarus to be a puppet government controlled by Russia and lacking any legitimacy both nationally and internationally;
  • Actively advocate for international derecognition of Lukashenka and his government as the legitimate governing body of Belarus, especially with respect to international organizations the United States is a part of, including but not limited to the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary, etc.;
  • Denounce and refuse to recognize any international treaties or agreements Lukashenka and his government will attempt to enter;
  • Facilitate the prosecution of Lukashenka as a co-perpetrator of war crimes and acts of terrorism against the Ukrainian people;
  • Recognize Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya as the legitimate Head of the Republic of Belarus.

The Russia-sponsored Lukashenka regime has rested on gross human rights abuse, propaganda, intimidation, and a powerful security apparatus to stay in power for 27 years. Lukashenka came to power through a presidential election in Belarus in 1994, the last free and fair presidential election. The international community did not recognize any subsequent presidential elections or other electoral campaigns in Belarus as free and fair. Lukashenka effectively traded the sovereignty of Belarus, relinquishing the country’s de facto independence and turning it into territory over which Putin’s regime exercises unlimited control and dominion and dictates its will without any regard to the will of the Belarusian people.

In 2020, the weakened and vulnerable Lukashenka regime created an opportunity for Russia’s takeover of Belarus. Widespread election fraud and the massive and long-lasting post-election anti-regime protests in Belarus in 2020 demonstrated the illegitimacy of Lukashenka’s regime once again. To remain in power following the 2020 presidential elections, Lukashenka falsified the election results, brutally suppressed the peaceful protests, and cracked down on the civil society and independent media in Belarus with direct assistance from Putin’s Russia in exchange for more Russia’s control over Belarus.  

On November 4, 2021, Lukashenka unlawfully signed the integration documents and military doctrine with Russia advancing the formation of the Union State. The military doctrine defined the ideological tenets of the Union State and the perceived threats from the bordering countries and international organizations, specifically NATO. Notably, the joint doctrine underlined the importance of Russian nuclear capabilities in preventing military conflicts. Further, in February 2022, in the presence of the Russian troops and under the conditions of mass political repressions and blatant human rights abuse, the Belarusian Constitution was amended to remove its neutral and nuclear-weapon-free status, paving the way to the closer military ties with Russia and potentially hosting Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus.

The Russian occupation of Belarus became a necessary step in preparation for the war in Ukraine. Belarus’s geographical location is strategic for attacking Kyiv and the western part of Ukraine. In December 2021, Lukashenka, a willing accomplice of the Kremlin, invited the Russian troops to Belarus for joint military exercises and later agreed to the indefinite presence of Russian forces in Belarus and the Russian invasion of Ukraine from the Belarusian territory. Lukashenka fully sided with Russia and intensified Russian propaganda against Ukraine. Since the beginning of the war, the Russian army attacked Kyiv from the territory of Belarus and, in March 2022 alone, launched 230 airstrikes against military and civilian targets in Ukraine. The air raids initiated from nine military airbases in Belarus carpet-bombed the Ukrainian cities. The illegitimate Lukashenka regime has become a co-aggressor in the Russian war against Ukraine and must face prosecution for the war crimes and genocide of the Ukrainian people.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine became a culmination of establishing Russian control over the Lukashenka government. At this time, Russia de facto controls all essential functions of the Belarusian government. Namely, the Belarusian government has ceded its rights to define its national security, foreign policy, and informational agenda to Putin’s Russia. Neither the Belarusian parliament nor any other governmental body authorized Russian troops to remain in Belarus and attack Ukraine from the Belarusian territory. Also, no Belarusian governmental body has ever demanded the withdrawal of the Russian troops from Belarus. Lukashenka said that it is up to him and Putin to make this decision. Reportedly, the Russian military command fully controls the Belarusian military infrastructure used for attacking Ukraine. Neither the Belarusian military nor KGB is informed of the Russian army activities inside Belarus. Two Belarusian KGB officers lost their lives to Russian landmines in Belarusian forests. The blur in the relationship between Belarusian and Russian government officials is exposed by the words of the Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin, who addressed Putin and Lukashenka as “our presidents.”

Belarusian people actively oppose the Russian war against Ukraine, the invasion of Ukraine from the Belarusian territory, the presence of Russian troops in Belarus, and the illegal Russian-sponsored Lukashenka regime that takes part in Russian aggression against Ukraine in violation of the Belarusian Constitution.

To guarantee lawful representation and fill the void of leadership for the Belarusian people, we ask the US government to recognize Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a lawfully elected leader, as the legitimate head of the Republic of Belarus until free and fair elections would take place in liberated Belarus. Tsikhanouskaya, as the Head of the Republic of Belarus, will form a temporary government of Belarus in exile that will represent Belarus in relations with the international community. 

We urge the Biden-Harris administration and the U.S. Congress to demand the withdrawal of Russian troops from Belarus, derecognize Lukashenka and his government as the legitimate governing body of Belarus, exclude the Lukashenka regime from any future treaties and negotiations, especially those related to Ukraine, and facilitate the prosecution of Lukashenka and his associates for their crimes against humanity. We call on the US to recognize Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya as the legitimate Head of the Republic of Belarus.

Belarus Freedom Forum