The European Movement stands with the Belarusian people, who continue to take to the streets asking for free and fair elections and calling for the release of Sergei Tikhanovsky as well as all peaceful protesters, including opposition leaders, students, and human rights activists unlawfully intimidated, arrested, or inhumanely detained during the protests in Belarus. To this end, we strongly condemn the recent decision of the country’s Interior Ministry allowing the police to use lethal weapons against protesters.

The Belarusian authorities must put an end to the violent repression of demonstrations.  Instead of creating a climate of fear, they should seek dialogue with civil society and opposition groups. The European Movement welcomes the European Union’s public condemnation of the vote for being fraudulent and irregular, and it supports the European Parliament resolution rejecting the official results and demanding new elections. The European Council’s decision to impose sanctions on members of the Belarusian regime is a rigorous, necessary move that demonstrates the EU’s defence of democracy, human rights, and the respect for the rule of law. Belarusian citizens have the right to protest peacefully and to decide their country’s leadership and direction through free and fair elections.

The highly contested presidential elections in Belarus and the violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters reflect a worrisome trend that has recently seen democracy, the rule of law, civil rights, and media pluralism challenged across the world, as indicated by international institutions and independent bodies. It is imperative that the EU, civil society, and other stakeholders stand up for democracy and human rights.