Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya addressed the US Congress Human Rights Commission; Ukraine suspends the purchase of bitumen from Naftan oil refinery; the authorities are increasing pressure on human rights defenders; people get fined and arrested for singing
6 May 2021 | Voice of Belarus
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya addressed the US Congress Human Rights Commission saying “we need concrete actions”
Online hearings on the situation in Belarus were held at the meeting of the Human Rights Commission of the US Congress.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya took part in the meeting and suggested organising an international conference to study the situation in the country.She also noted that the United States was among the first to impose sanctions and visa bans against representatives of the Belarusian authorities. In addition, Tsikhanouskaya called on the United States to join the EU in the international negotiation process and accelerate the resolution of the crisis.
“Lukashenko is trying to win some time so that everyone will forget about Belarus. Therefore, we want to draw the attention of the whole world to the crisis in Belarus. It is not only international solidarity that is important, but also concrete actions. For almost a year now, every day my children have been asking where their dad is and when he will be back home. And this is how thousands of families live in Belarus: every day they suffer from persecution by the regime,” Tsikhanouskaya said.
The Former US Assistant Secretary of State David Kramer stated that it is necessary to expand the sanctions. “Until Lukashenko leaves and the regime falls. And we are ready to make it difficult for him to stay in power.” Kramer also called for maximum pressure on officials and oligarchs who support the regime and provided specific names: Viktar Sheiman, Aliaksei Aleksin, Aliaksandr Zaitsau, Mikalai Varabei, Aliaksandr Mashenski, Uladzimir Peftiev.
Due to the sanctions, Ukraine has suspended the purchase of bitumen from Naftan oil refinery
Large Ukrainian companies have suspended purchases of bitumen from Naftan oil refinery. They are waiting until 3 June to understand the impact of the US sanctions. Businesses tried to purchase bitumen in advance before the sanctions come into effect. But Ukrainian banks refused to finance transactions with the sanctioned enterprise which could have consequences for them as well.
Ukraine is one of the largest buyers of bitumen from Belarus.
Belarusian human rights activists on the situation in the country: “We work in a war zone”
Belarusian authorities are increasing pressure on human rights defenders. Some of them ended up in prison or became involved in criminal cases, some were forced to leave the country. Nevertheless, human rights defenders are not giving up.
“We are trying to find a balance between protecting human rights and not being imprisoned ourselves. The rhetoric of the authorities narrows down to the fact that human rights defenders are some kind of destructive figures who support the riots. Although this is nonsense,” says Yanina, an employee of the Belarusian human rights organization Human Constanta.
“We are practically in a situation not yet of a martial law, but already of a state of emergency, when society is deprived of elementary rights, when the legal system does not work,” Ales Bialiatski, the head of the Viasna human rights centre describes the situation.
People get fined and arrested for singing
Yuliya Shabanava, Lizaveta Paketava, and Aliaksei Zhuraulevich were arrested on 22 April in an underpass where they sang songs. The musicians were accused of illegal picketing by singing the “Mury” song. At the same time, the musicians had official permission to perform in the underpass, and they did not even know about the existence of any list of prohibited songs.
As a result, Lizaveta Paketava and Aliaksei Zhuraulevich were sentenced to 11 and 25 days’ detention respectively. Yuliya Shabanava only received a fine since she has underage children.
According to the Belarusian PEN Center, 33 Belarusian artists became political prisoners. From those under criminal prosecution, 12 people were convicted and sentenced to 1.5 to 3 years of home arrest or 2 to 8 years in a penal colony.