Europe

Belarusian opposition warns EU of new threat from Lukashenko regime

Opposition figure Svetlana Tikhanovskaya asks bloc to 'face autocracy more proactively', stick to sanctions against Belarus

Agnes Szucs   | 24.11.2021
Belarusian opposition warns EU of new threat from Lukashenko regime Svetlana Tikhanovskaya ( FILE PHOTO - Anadolu Agency )

BRUSSELS

The Belarusian regime may threaten the EU with military provocations, and increased drug smuggling if the migrant crisis ends, Belarusian opposition figure Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said on Wednesday.

Speaking to the European Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg, Tikhanovskaya called on the EU to “face autocracy more proactively” and asked the bloc to stick to its sanctions policy against the Lukashenko regime.

She reminded the EU lawmakers that currently 882 people were jailed in Belarus for political reasons – more than the 705 seats in the European Parliament – and paid tribute to the imprisoned members of the Belarusian opposition.

Tikhanovskaya argued that over the past few months, the EU experienced the dangerous tactics of President Alexander Lukashenko, using the migration crisis at the bloc’s borders with Belarus.

“Supposing this abuse of migrants is somehow stopped, do you really assume the regime’s abuses and threats beyond its borders will end there?” she asked, underlining that the Lukashenko regime might continue threatening the EU.

“Increase in the flow of drugs and other contrabands, a military provocation, a disaster at a nuclear power plant right at the EU’s external borders – none of these are just my imagination. These are threats that the regime itself has made,” Tikhanovskaya said.

She called on the bloc to continue with “a consistent sanctions policy” because the restrictive measures “split the elites, destroy corruption schemes and divide people around Lukashenko.”

The European Union accuses Lukashenko of taking revenge against the EU sanctions imposed on his regime after a crackdown on protests that broke out after last years’ presidential election and the diversion in June of a Ryanair flight to Minsk and the detention of Belarusian journalist Raman Pratasevich.

According to the EU, the Belarusian regime reached out to potential travelers via seemingly official channels, through diplomatic representations or travel agencies, and invited them to Belarus by offering visas and guiding them to the EU border.

“This is not a migration crisis. This is the attempt of an authoritarian regime to try to destabilize its democratic neighbors,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Tuesday in the European Parliament.

She said: “A particularly cruel form of hybrid threat has emerged with the state-sponsored instrumentalization of people for political ends.”

Lukashenko denies allegations, saying migrants are using Belarus to enter the EU because it has a visa-free regime with countries "destroyed by the Western military ventures."

On Tuesday, the European Commission applied a new act to sanction transport operators involved in human trafficking in response to the migration crisis at the bloc's borders with Belarus.

The EU foreign ministers are expected to adopt the fifth round of sanctions against the Belarusian regime in the coming days.

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