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I UNDERSTAND
English Section

Belarusian Americans call for Polish help over violence in home country

13.08.2020 11:00
Members of the Belarusian community in the United States have asked Poles in America to support their appeal to Western governments to help stop violence against peaceful demonstrators in Belarus.
Police block a street during a protest in Minsk, Belarus, on Thursday, August 13, 2020, in the wake of the countrys presidential election.
Police block a street during a protest in Minsk, Belarus, on Thursday, August 13, 2020, in the wake of the country's presidential election.Photo: PAP/EPA/STR

“On behalf of US citizens and permanent residents of Belarusian heritage, we are asking your help in appealing to the US and EU governments to take urgent action to help stop the violence against peaceful protestors in Belarus,” a group of Belarusian Americans said in a letter addressed to the Polish diaspora in the United States.

“Thousands of protesters who have come out to peacefully voice their opposition to the presidential election results, have been severely beaten and detained by Belarus law enforcement agencies … the local police have used tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannon against citizens who are simply asking for an open, transparent and independently validated count of the votes cast,” the letter said, as cited by Polish state news agency PAP.

The group also said in its letter that the internet and social media networks “are blocked in Belarus, and independent journalists are either being detained or expelled from the country in an orchestrated effort to shut down coverage of the brutal violence being perpetrated against defenseless protesters.”

The letter, made available by the Polish Consulate General in New York, also said that “the Belarus government is trying to impose complete and total control of any and all information coming out from the country.”

The group said in its appeal that the United States and the European Union, “having been founded on the principles of liberty, free speech, and freedom of assembly, have a long tradition of defending human rights and democracy around the world.”

The letter, dated August 12, added: “We urge you to speak out and support the innocent people who are trying to peacefully exercise their freedom today in Belarus.”

At the same time, the authors of the letter appealed to the US and EU governments “to help stop the violence and free all political prisoners.”

They argued that “if Belarus values its relationship with the United States and the European Union, it will have to listen.”

The Belarusian Americans also said in their letter that “Poland has been one of the greatest allies of the Belarusian people for centuries” and that Poles and Belarusians “have fought together many battles to preserve most important European values such as freedom and independence.”

“We received the first taste of democracy from changes in Poland in the 1980s. Now we are asking for your help in protecting our freedom,” the authors of the letter concluded.

Women attend a rally in Minsk, Belarus, on Wednesday to support detained and injured participants of protests after the country's contested presidential election. Photo: EPA/YAUHEN YERCHAK Women attend a rally in Minsk, Belarus, on Wednesday to support detained and injured participants of protests after the country's contested presidential election. Photo: EPA/YAUHEN YERCHAK

Thousands have been detained by Belarus authorities amid a crackdown on protesters who accuse strongman President Alexander Lukashenko of rigging his re-election victory, news agencies have reported.

On Wednesday, the Polish ambassador to Belarus demanded the release of three Poles detained in that country, according to officials in Warsaw.

A day earlier, the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called on the Belarusian authorities "to release immediately and unconditionally all detained.”

The EU also declared that the contested Belarus presidential vote on Sunday, August 9, was "neither free nor fair."

Official results handed Lukashenko, in power for more than a quarter of a century, an 80 percent share of the vote in Sunday's election, while Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Lukashenko's main electoral opponent, took around 10 percent, the Reuters news agency reported.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has called for a special summit of EU leaders to focus on Belarus.

Polish President Andrzej Duda has urged the UN Human Rights Council to demand that the Belarusian authorities stop using violence against peaceful demonstrators and release political prisoners.

(gs/pk)

Source: PAP, Reuters, facebook.com/ConsulateofPolandinNewYork