Kaptur, Keating, Meeks, Fitzpatrick Lead Largest Transatlantic Letter In Recent History Demanding Illegitimate Belarusian Leader Lukashenko Immediately Release Opposition Leader Marya Kalesnikava, All Political Prisoners

September 24, 2020
Press Release
The bipartisan letter, signed by 274 transatlantic legislators from 29 countries, signals support for the Belarusian people following an illegitimate election and subsequent sham inauguration of Alexander Lukashenko in one of Europe’s only remaining dictatorships

The signers stand with the people of Belarus in their fight against the tyranny of the Lukashenko regime and demand the immediate release of all political prisoners, including opposition leader Marya Kalesnikava, Members of the Coordination Council, and Vitali Shkliarov

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representatives Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Bill Keating (D-MA), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) joined by 270 transatlantic legislators from 29 countries in a letter to the illegitimate President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko demanding the immediate release of Belarusian opposition leader Marya Kalesnikava and that all charges against her be dropped. The legislators are also calling for the immediate release of Coordination Council members Maksim Znak, Illya Saley, and all other political prisoners, including Vitali Shkliarov, a dual citizen of the United States and Belarus and husband of a U.S. diplomat, who has been unjustly imprisoned for two months.

 

Transatlantic signatories represent constituencies in the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

 

“As transatlantic legislators strongly committed to preserving and strengthening liberty, democracy, and human rights in Europe, we write with deep concern regarding the Lukashenko regime’s unjust detention of opposition leader Marya Kalesnikava and her colleagues,” the legislators wrote. “We demand that all charges against her be dropped, and that she be immediately released along with fellow Coordination Council members Maksim Znak, Illya Saley, and all other political prisoners.”

 

The legislators continued, “The international community has condemned Belarus’ August 9 presidential election as illegitimate. Reacting to the disputed results, the Belarusian people took to the streets demanding dignity, liberty, and a new election that reflects the will of the people.”

 

“We are monitoring the situation in Belarus and the regime’s actions closely, and are fully committed to using our legislative powers to advocate and act to support the Belarusian people,” the legislators continued. “We strongly support carefully targeted sanctions against human rights offenders in and outside of Belarus, in coordination with transatlantic allies and international partners.

 

“We thank our transatlantic colleagues for joining us on this historic initiative to support the Belarusian people’s right to choose their own future,” said Representatives Kaptur, Meeks, Keating, and Fitzpatrick in a joint statement. “Transatlantic solidarity is the bedrock for liberty. We look forward toward to continuing our collaboration to preserve and expand democracy in Europe, and globally.”

 

Full text of the letter sent today can be found here and below.

 

September 24, 2020

 

An Open Letter to Alexander Lukashenko From Transatlantic Legislators

 

As transatlantic legislators strongly committed to preserving and strengthening liberty, democracy, and human rights in Europe, we write with deep concern regarding the Lukashenko regime’s unjust detention of opposition leader Marya Kalesnikava and her colleagues. We demand that all charges against her be dropped, and that she be immediately released along with fellow Coordination Council members Maksim Znak, Illya Saley, and all other political prisoners. Additionally, we call for the immediate release of Vitali Shkliarov who has unjustly languished in custody for two months.

 

The international community has condemned Belarus’ August 9 presidential election as illegitimate. Reacting to the disputed results, the Belarusian people took to the streets demanding dignity, liberty, and a new election that reflects the will of the people. Sadly, Alexander Lukashenko and other regime members, such as Yury Karayev, Andrey Shved, and Ivan Noskevich have violently cracked down on these peaceful protests with arbitrary arrests, information lockdowns, persecution of civil society, as well as widespread torture and ill-treatment of the Belarusian people. Instead of heeding ongoing calls for liberty and political change, Alexander Lukashenko has broken the social contract, using state-sanctioned violence on the Belarusian people, and turned to Vladimir Putin for security assurances and other assistance to further suppress Belarusian citizens. As legislators whose nations are bound together by shared democratic, transatlantic values, we stand in strong solidarity with the Belarusian people, including those protesting and wrongly imprisoned. We condemn the Lukashenko regime’s use of violence, intimidation, arrests, and repressive tactics against the people of Belarus, including the targeting of leading members of the Coordination Council.

We were deeply troubled to learn of the detention of key members of the Coordination Council such as Marya Kalesnikava. According to witnesses, Ms. Kalesnikava was abducted in broad daylight, and security forces attempted but failed to deport her to Ukraine. We admire Ms. Kalesnikava’s commitment to liberty and that she chose to stay in her country despite the evident risks. Her leadership, as well as that of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, demonstrates the resilience of women at liberty’s edge, and their critical role in advancing democracy in Central and Eastern Europe. The arrest of Ms. Kalesnikava will not end the Belarusians’ demonstrations for liberty in Belarus. Nor will it temper our collective resolve to support the Belarusian people and hold Lukashenko regime members and foreign actors responsible for grave human rights violations committed against Belarusians. 

 

For these reasons, we strongly urge the Lukashenko regime to immediately release Ms. Kalesnikava, Mr. Znak, Mr. Saley and all political prisoners. We condemn the unjust detainment of Mr. Shkliarov who has faced abuse and deprivation of medical treatment despite falling ill with COVID-19 symptoms. We urge the regime to cease violence against the Belarusian people consistent with Belarus’ obligations under the Helsinki Final Act. We are monitoring the situation in Belarus and the regime’s actions closely, and are fully committed to using our legislative powers to advocate and act to support the Belarusian people. Further, we strongly support carefully targeted sanctions against human rights offenders in and outside of Belarus, in coordination with transatlantic allies and international partners. This includes those active and complicit in the detainment of Ms. Kalesnikava, Mr. Znak, and Mr. Saley as well as other political prisoners.

 

In conclusion, we stand in strong support of the vision of Europe free and at peace that has brought unprecedented stability and prosperity to the European Continent where citizens choose their own future. Surely, the people of Belarus deserve the same.

 

Sincerely,

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kaptur.house.gov