On August 9, the Belarusians who fled the Lukashenka dictatorial regime mark the third anniversary of the Belarusian mass protests against the dictatorship and the fraudulent presidential elections of 2020. Rallies in honor of the protests are planned in 38 cities in the United States and the European Union, where the Belarusian exiles have found refuge. This day has become a tribute to the lives of those killed and persecuted by the regime, a tribute to a courageous battle against the ruthless dictatorship, and a new step toward freedom and democracy for the Belarusian nation.
For the last three years, Lukashenka has acted increasingly more openly as an agent of Russia’s imperial expansionism and has moved Belarus politically and economically closer to Russia. The regime has supported and actively assisted in the Russian criminal invasion of Ukraine, has stationed and supplied the Russian army, and participated in the abduction of Ukrainian children. With the Russian nuclear weapon and Wagner PMC stationed in Belarus, the independence of the country has been undermined even further. The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Vancouver recognized the “soft-annexation of Belarus” by Russia.
Since the 2020 protests, the Lukashenka regime has expanded the system of intimidation and fear to break the political will of the Belarusian people. Thousands of political prisoners, the hostages of the regime, separated from their families and their children, deprived of their freedom and even lives, are subjected to systematic torture and abuse. Every day exiled independent Belarusian media outlets share stories that bring shock and sorrow - stories about countless politically motivated arrests and trials. Every day Belarusian people share stories of relatives and friends being arrested or fleeing Belarus. These are difficult stories to stomach. However, there is another dimension to those stories - the protests have become quiet in Belarus but have not stopped and are alive. The daily repressions are the regime’s response to the ongoing protest movement and its wide support among the Belarusians.
Even after three years of struggle, the Belarusian people continue fighting for freedom, democracy, respect for human rights, and the possibility to decide their destiny. Belarusian people inside Belarus and in exile are preparing for the next window of opportunity for a transition of power to build a free, peaceful, and democratic Belarus. The Belarusian volunteers are fighting in Ukraine alongside the Armed Forces of Ukraine to free the country from the Russian invaders.
In exile, the Belarusian political refugees from countless civil society organizations, foundations, and media outlets continue to tell the stories of people imprisoned by the Lukashenka regime, support the families of political prisoners, keep the Belarusian culture alive, and develop political institutions for the peaceful transition of power. The president-elect Tshikhanouskaya’s transitional cabinet functions as a government in exile and the Coordination Council as a representative institution of the Belarusian people. The Belarusian diaspora is developing the principles and tools for building a free and democratic Belarus.
It is imperative that the Biden-Harris Administration and the U.S. Congress keep the Belarusian people in focus by prioritizing support for the democratic aspirations of the Belarusian people and developing a clear, actionable plan to safeguard Belarusian efforts to build a free, democratic, independent, and sovereign Belarus. The United States must take additional measures to keep the Lukashenka regime accountable for its war crimes in Ukraine, such as the deportation of Ukrainian children to Belarus against their will, and human rights abuse in Belarus that amounts to crimes against humanity according to the UN Human Rights Report on Belarus.
The Belarusian American organizations call on the US to continue expanding personal and economic sanctions against the Lukashenka regime, to enable consistent and pro-active investigation of sanctions violations, and to initiate an investigation of Lukashenka war crimes in Ukraine, human rights violations, and cases of systematic torture and deaths in Belarusian penal institutions and police custody.