EU pays tribute to Belarusian “revolutionaries”
Senior EU officials tried to cheer up the Belarusian opposition by presenting the annual European Human Rights Prize, the Sakharov Prize, to one of their exiled leaders, Svetlana Tikhanvoskaya, in Brussels Wednesday December 16.
“Your cause and your strength of mind have shown the way to revolution (…) and we pay tribute to you”, said European Parliament (EP) David Sassoli in a speech.
“We are fully aware of what is happening in your country (…) we see the deplorable abuses and we see the violence,” he added.
“In the EU, it is our moral duty to support them [Belarusian protesters],” he said.
Tikhanvoskaya herself, whose husband, also an activist, is in prison in Belarus, has shed light on some of the regime’s crimes.
She spoke of an unarmed man who was shot dead in the street and another who was “kidnapped and beaten to death in a police station”.
“Inmates [in police custody] are marked with colors to determine how badly they should be beaten, ”she said.
Police also “deliberately infected people with Covid-19,” Tikhanvoskaya said.
“We call on Europe to be more courageous in its decisions and to support the Belarusian people now, not tomorrow,” she added.
“It’s not interference [in Belarus], but the duty of any self-respecting country, ”she said, alluding to the Belarusian regime’s propaganda on Western plots.
Tikhanvoskaya spoke after the 19th consecutive weekend of street protests, riot police attacks and mass detentions in Belarus following rigged elections in August.
At least seven people have been killed and thousands are being held behind bars, some given long sentences.
The EU has blacklisted 55 Belarusian officials, including President Alexander Lukashenko.
He is also preparing visa bans and asset freezes on oligarchs who feed him money during his next round of sanctions, scheduled for mid-December.
Meanwhile, the European Parliament building in the EU capital has displayed on its facade photos of Belarusian women clashing with riot squads to mark her Sakharov Prize.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and senior MEPs like German Conservative Manfred Weber came to listen to Tikhanvoskaya speak and pose for photos.
Some MPs took selfies with Tikhanvoskaya, a sign of the international notoriety of the former housewife turned politician.
Tikhanvoskaya also met with EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, whose job it is to draft sanctions proposals.
They “exchanged assessments of the current situation in Belarus,” Borrell’s office said in a statement.
And Borrell’s services were “in the process of finalizing additional sanctions, which will target both individuals and entities,” he confirmed.
Wednesday marked the third time in 16 years that the EU has awarded its Sakharov Prize to Belarusian activists, testifying to the longevity of the Lukashenko regime, which first seized power in 1994.