Wicker and Shaheen lead bipartisan Free Belarus Caucus launch
06 Aug 2021
Biparty group to push for democracy in Belarus ahead of first anniversary of fraudulent presidential elections
(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today announced the formation of the Free Belarus Caucus, which will advocate for democracy and free and fair elections in the former Soviet Republic which has been rocked by increasing political violence and repression after decades of reign of current President Alexander Lukashenka. Wicker and Shaheen will serve as caucus co-chairs, which includes U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Edward Markey (D- MA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), all of whom joined as founding members.
“The Belarusian people deserve a functioning democracy that protects fundamental human rights”, Senator Wicker said. “I am happy to join Senator Shaheen in launching the Free Belarus Caucus. I hope this sends a strong message that the US Senate stands alongside the Belarusian people in their struggle for freedom and new free and fair elections.
“I am proud to work with Senator Wicker and this bipartisan group of lawmakers to establish the Free Belarus Caucus and make it clear to the international community that the United States supports the Belarusian people in their determination to build a democratic future,” said Senator Shaheen. “Our bipartisan mission sends a strong message to Lukashenka that the United States is monitoring and will continue to respond to its oppressive and dictatorial actions that target the pro-democracy movement, independent media and free and fair elections. I am honored to have had the opportunity to meet and work with Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya to support her vision for democracy in Belarus, which the Senate is strengthening today through the creation of this bipartisan caucus. “
“For decades, the US Congress has shown its full support for the aspirations of Belarusians to live in a democratic, sovereign and independent country. crisis in Belarus, but also to prepare for the future when Belarus joins the family of democratic nations ”, said Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.
“I will never forget my trip to Minsk in January 2011 to meet the families of the opposition candidates imprisoned by Lukashenka for having had the temerity to stand against him in the false presidential election the previous month”, Senator Durbin said. “And now history has repeated itself once again, with the notable difference that the Belarusian people have had enough. That Europe’s last dictator continues to deprive his people of the fundamental freedoms enjoyed by the rest of Europe is a tragedy that must be condemned. This bipartisan Senate caucus demonstrates that the United States Senate will continue to stand alongside the brave Belarusian people in their hopes for a more democratic country.
“For too long, President Lukashenka’s oppressive regime has prevented Belarus from giving its citizens a voice and from conducting free and fair elections,” said Senator Tillis. “I am proud to join the Free Belarus Caucus and to continue to advocate for a democratic Belarus. “
“The Belarusian people deserve to exercise their democratic rights without fear”, said Senator Kaine. “We must hold President Lukashenka and his regime accountable for their growing repression and support Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s vision of democracy in Belarus. I am proud to join my colleagues in launching Belarus’ first-ever bipartisan Free Senate Committee to defend the rights and freedoms of the Belarusian people and condemn the unacceptable human rights violations by the illegitimate Lukashenka regime.
“I am honored to join my colleagues in the Senate in launching this bipartisan initiative to show the Belarusian people that the US Senate is united with them in their tireless struggle towards a democratic future,” said Senator Sullivan. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Free Belarus Caucus to continue building support for Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and related congressional efforts to support a free and democratic Belarus. “
“I am proud to join the Free Belarus Biparty Caucus in making it clear that we stand with the Belarusian people as they fight for their basic rights. said Senator Markey. “I strongly condemn the human rights violations perpetrated by the Lukashenka regime. As the Belarusian government denies freedom of speech and the basic rights of its own people, the U.S. Senate will continue to lead efforts to hold the government accountable for its abuses, while calling for the restoration of peace and stability in Belarus.
Among other initiatives, the Free Belarus Caucus:
- Lobby for democracy in Belarus, including free and fair elections;
- Fight for free media and the protection of journalists; and
- Support neighboring countries, such as Lithuania and Poland, in their efforts to help the Belarusian people.
The launch of the caucus follows Senators’ meeting with Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya last month. It also precedes the first anniversary of a fraudulent presidential election that appointed President Lukashenka for a sixth term amid mass protests and an increase in state-sponsored violence against journalists, society groups. civilian and protesters. His opponent, Tsikhanouskaya, was forced to flee for his safety to neighboring NATO member Lithuania after the election results were announced.
Since Lukashenka took power, the criminalization of the media has resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of journalists, the looting of independent media offices, as well as the detention and abuse of civil society groups and protesters. There are more than 570 political prisoners in Belarus and the situation continues to deteriorate day by day.
Lukashenka escalated the conflict in May when he forced the hijacking and landing of Ryanair flight 4978 as it flew over Belarusian airspace so that Belarusian authorities could arrest the 26-year-old activist Raman Pratasevich, an outspoken critic. of Loukachenka. The act of piracy and transnational repression has shown that the Lukashenka regime is a threat not only to the Belarusian people, but also to regional partners.