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International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Wednesday, 22.09.2021, 02:29

Latushko in Vilnius: neighbors' voice matters to Belarusians

BC, Vilnius, 04.09.2020.Print version
Neighbors' voice and their views on what is happening in Belarus matter a lot to Belarusians, Pavel Latushko, a member of the presidium of the Belarusian opposition's Coordination Council, said in Vilnius on Friday, cites LETA/BNS,

According to Latushko, Lithuania, Poland or the European Union could act as mediators if Belarusian society established dialogue with the regime of Alexander Lukashenko.


"It's very important for us to hear your voice and your views on what is happening in Belarus," the opposition activist told reporters after meeting with members of a delegation set up by the Lithuanian parliament for a visit to Belarus.


"If we start dialog, the role of mediators – with the agreement of domestic political forces, of course – is very important to find a peaceful solution to the situation, without the force that has unfortunately been used," he added.   


Latushko said that the political crisis in Belarus was first and foremost an internal affair of the country. "Its solution depends on Belarusian society and the current government," he said. "We are making every effort to persuade the authorities to sit down at the negotiating table and make swift, clear and responsible decisions so that violence in our country ends, protests stop and everything goes according to the law and the Constitution". 


Latushko said his trips to Poland and Lithuania were aimed at providing first-hand information about the developments in Belarus. 


"As a member of the presidium of the Coordinating Council, which was practically formed at Belarusian society's initiative, I have the goal of informing you about what is happening in Belarus, about the deep political crisis that Belarus is going through," he said. "I want to give first-hand information about the real situation in Belarus not only to our neighbors, but also to EU member states".  


Latushko said after his meeting with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius that the Coordination Council was seeking new transparent democratic elections in Belarus, an end to violence, the release of political prisoners, and an investigation of all cases of violence.  


Speaking about Russia's role in the events in Belarus, Latushko said that the Coordination Council had hoped that Moscow would take a neutral position and hear the opinion of the Belarusian public, but this has not happened so far.  


"Russia maintains contact only with the current authorities and refuses to communicate with civil society," he said. "I'm ready to go to Moscow to meet with Russian politicians to provide them with information. The European Union communicates with civil society and receives information from it, but can't communicate with Belarus' authorities, because they refuse to communicate," the opposition activist said.  


Communication between all four forces is key to achieving results in efforts to resolve the political crisis, he noted.


Later on Friday, Latushko is planning to meet with Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the main opposition challenger in the August 9 presidential vote who arrived in Lithuania after the election. "We have no disagreements. We all understand that we need to lay the basic principles, the foundations for democratic change in the country. We are unanimous in that," the member of the Coordination Council's presidium said. 


Latushko said during his meetings with Lithuanian officials that the EU should clearly tell Belarusians what they could expect if Belarus became a democratic state. "Today, the EU has to state it clearly in a short document what Belarusian society, an independent Belarus that will become a democracy, will receive: free trade, possible economic investments, free movement," he said. 


Gediminas Kirkilas, the head of the Seimas delegation for Belarus, said that Lithuania's task now is make sure that Western countries hear and understand what Belarusian civil society is saying.  "This is our mission. Not everyone in the West understands these countries," he told reporters. "We have to inform the West and explain what is going on there. This is the mission of our delegation, too." 


Zygimantas Pavilionis, a member of the delegation, noted that Belarusians also need specific help to be able to work abroad. "Seeing a growing concentration of such people in Lithuania, the question is whether, apart from political solidarity and nice declarations, we are going to give them some infrastructure to work here and whether they have an office where they can get together. They have no money left," he said. 


BACK TO MINSK 

Latushko says he intends to return to Minsk, even though he does not feel safe in his country and understands that he can be detained at the border. "From the moment I expressed my civic position, I was told that I had been taken 'into the state's care' 24 hours a day, seven days a week," he said. 


The opposition activist said that he had been watched around-the-clock by the staff of Belarus' State Security Committee (KGB), with his house placed under surveillance and his calls tapped. "I couldn't sleep at home; I slept in various apartments. I felt a threat to my personal security all the time (and was in) constant danger of being detained and put into custody," Latushko said.  "Two criminal cases have already been brought. The president said I had crossed the red line and would have to answer under the Criminal Code. Of course, I'm afraid after such words and actions," the opposition activist said. 


"But I'm not planning either to be a political emigrant or to seek political asylum here. My goal is to be in Belarus and to do everything possible to ensure that there is peace and harmony and that people decide their own destiny," he added.


Latushko served as Belarus' culture minister between 2009 and 2012, and, later, as the country's ambassador to France.


He was appointed director of the Janka Kupala National Theater on his return to Minsk last year, but was fired in mid-August for supporting the theater staff's position on election fraud.  


Latushko then became a member of the presidium of the Coordination Council, created at Tikhanovskaya's initiative to facilitate a peaceful transition of power in Belarus. 


Belarus has been engulfed in protests since Alexander Lukashenko, the authoritarian leader who has ruled Belarus since 1994, claimed a landslide victory in the August 9 election which the opposition and Western countries say was rigged.  






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