Leading MEPs on EU-Belarus relations condemn the new wave of arrests of Presidential election candidates, opposition politicians and peaceful protesters in the country.
“We are deeply concerned about the continued failure of the Belarusian authorities to improve the election environment and their manifest lack of intention to create conditions for a genuine level-playing field between the candidates. Less than a week ago, we already voiced our concerns in an official statement, deploring the crackdown on peaceful protesters and civil society activists. Regrettably, in recent days we have been witnessing a substantial deterioration of the situation. We strongly oppose the actions carried out this weekend, which have led to the repeated detention of video blogger Siarhiej Cichanouski and opposition leader Mikalai Statkevich, who was subsequently sentenced to 15 days of administrative detention, and the arrests of dozens of others who attended peaceful and legal signature collection campaign events across the country. We very much deplore these provocations as they constitute yet another attack on the fundamental freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly, as well as a direct interference into the election process with the aim to prevent candidates from collecting the number of signatures required for the official presidential nomination. We call on the Belarusian authorities to immediately release all the citizens who have been unjustly arrested and to put an immediate halt on this unacceptable wave of repression. In case of further arbitrary arrests and restrictions for Belarusian citizens to freely exercise their political rights, we will see no other option but to seek for a review of the European Union’s policy towards Belarus, including new sanctions targeting the officials responsible for these actions.”
The statement is signed by the Chair of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with Belarus, Robert Biedroń (S&D, PL) and the European Parliament’s Standing Rapporteur on Belarus, Petras Auštrevičius (Renew Europe, LT).