On February 18, the Munich Security Conference has started, with representatives of more than 30 countries taking part. Within the conference, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya held a number of meetings.

– Meeting with President of Montenegro Milo Đukanović.

The President noted that he was pleased to meet and closely follows Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s work.

Montenegro has joined the EU’s post-election statements and actions regarding Belarus and supported all sanctions and restrictive measures. President Đukanović expressed readiness to extend support at the diplomatic level, in particular, at the Human Rights Council. Аlso, the leaders discussed rehabilitation programs for political prisoners and their families. The President of Montenegro responded with interest and pledged to provide support. 

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya explained that the “referendum” in Belarus is illegal, as Belarusians can only choose between Lukashenka and Lukashenka. Leader of democratic Belarus stressed that the “referendum” results must not be recognized. 

President Đukanović said that Montenegro has been and remains a friend for Belarusians.

– Meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Ms. Tsikhanouskaya and Secretary Blinken discussed the international response to the regime’s actions. Ms. Tsikhanouskaya noted that the human rights situation is deteriorating, the repressions are intensifying, and the regime has started to trade Belarusian sovereignty.  Lukashenka has lost his independence and is ready to return nuclear weapons to the country. Belarus is critical to European security and should be on the international agenda.

– Meeting with Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg.

At the meeting, they discussed the situation in Ukraine. Austrians are extremely concerned about the recent developments because of Austria’s proximity to the region, as the country is closer than other Western European countries. Austrians are afraid that the situation may affect their interests, to the point that many companies are considering withdrawing their investments from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus if the situation develops in the same direction.

They also discussed the “referendum”, and Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya again stressed that it must not be recognized.

When they talked about Belarus’ neutral and nuclear-weapon-free status, they noted that removing these provisions from the Constitution is the cost of Russia’s support for Lukashenka, which allowed him to stay in power.

Ms. Tsikhanouskaya thanked Minister Schallenberg for organizing the Vienna Conference and suggested transforming it into a series of expert discussions on resolving the crisis in Belarus. Schallenberg reacted with interest and stressed that Austria would be pleased to support this idea. Minister also invited Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya to Vienna for full-fledged negotiations.

– Meeting with Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne.

Ms. Tsikhanouskaya thanked Australia for the non-recognition of Lukashenka, its firm position, and the joint statement with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Landsbergis made on February 9, in which Australia called for an immediate end to the persecution of democratic activists in Belarus.

Leader of democratic Belarus noted that Australia’s experience in various areas would be valuable for Belarus, including the social sphere, education, and healthcare. Belarusians may use it in reforming the country after the democratic changes.

Marise Payne and Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya discussed the issues of international support for Belarus and cooperation in international organizations such as the UN, where Australia traditionally has a strong voice. They discussed the possibility of helping Belarus establish relations with the countries of the southern hemisphere, the Pacific region, and Southeast Asia.

They also discussed the issue of imposing sanctions on the Belarusian regime, as a relevant bill is being developed in Australia. Potash fertilizers account for 88% of trade between Belarus and Australia.

– Meeting with Icelandic Foreign Minister Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir.

Iceland takes an active position on the illegitimacy of Lukashenka’s regime, supports Belarus in international structures. Iceland has repeatedly spoken out in support of sanctions, non-recognition of the 2020 presidential election results.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya spoke about the situation with Natallia Hershe. She and other political prisoners who are released, as well as their families, will need rehabilitation and support. It is important to remember about the women, people with serious illnesses, and minors in Belarusian prisons.

They discussed the military exercises taking place in Belarus. Ms. Tsikhanouskaya noted that the demand that the Russian military leaves Belarus after the exercises’ end on February 20 is the principled position.

Given Iceland’s location, Ms. Tsikhanouskaya suggested the idea of holding an American-European thematic conference on Belarus in Iceland with the participation of international experts, as well as Belarusian diasporas from different countries. One of the topics could be support for Belarusian women and women’s initiatives.

They also discussed other joint projects that are already underway, including the installation of a memorial plaque to Torvald the Traveler, an Icelandic preacher who lived and worked in Belarus and was buried in Polatsk.

– Meeting with European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya spoke about the situation in Belarus, political prisoners, the hunger strike of political prisoners Uladzimir Matskevich and Mikita Yemelyanau. She stressed that Belarusians continue their resistance in various forms. Also, Ms. Tsikhanouskaya noted that the concepts of the regime and the people must be separated. The former president can no longer maintain his “strong leader” image.

Ms. Johansson and Ms. Tsikhanouskaya discussed the migration crisis orchestrated by Lukashenka and talked about how to prevent its recurrence. Ms. Tsikhanouskaya noted that it is clear who does this and for what purpose.

They discussed the creation of a working group to resolve the issues faced by exiled Belarusians in the EU, including those related to relocation and legalization in European countries. Ms. Tsikhanouskaya raised the issue of Schengen visas, which Belarusians cannot make full use of.

They also discussed the abuse of diplomatic passports by Lukashenka’s henchmen, although they have no right to use these passports; and the important issue of suspending cooperation with the regime within Interpol.

– Meeting with Head of the German Federal Chancellery Wolfgang Schmidt.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya spoke about the situation with political prisoners in Belarus, noted the dire economic and political situation in the country, stressing that the only solution to the crisis is dialogue and a new presidential election. But instead, repressions are intensifying, the number of political prisoners is growing, and Lukashenka is becoming an increasing threat to both Belarusians and the entire region.

Ms. Tsikhanouskaya spoke about the threats to Belarusian independence. The illegitimate dictator trades Belarusian sovereignty and loses control over the situation. She stressed that Russian troops must be withdrawn from Belarus after the exercises, otherwise their presence should be seen as an attack on Belarusian sovereignty.

Speaking about Ukraine, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya voiced the position that Belarusians oppose the idea of war with Ukraine, and that the independence of Belarus is an absolute value for Belarusians, for which they will fight. 

Ms. Tsikhanouskaya and Mr. Schmidt discussed the need to put pressure on the regime – by closing the loopholes in sanctions. Germany and the European Union should abstain from recognizing not only Lukashenka’s regime, but also all the acts, decisions, agreements, and other documents signed by the regime.

They discussed the need to continue the support for civil society and be flexible in delivering this assistance to those who need it. They also talked about the programs and ways to support political prisoners.

As Germany is chairing the G7, Wolfgang Schmidt and Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya discussed the possibility of raising the Belarusian issue at one of the next G7 meetings. Belarus must remain on the international agenda.

– Meeting with Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko.

At the meeting, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya expressed support for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. She thanked Vitaliy Klitschko for solidarity action with Belarusians in 2020. Ms. Tsikhanouskaya stressed that Belarusians would never support aggression against the Ukrainian people.

They discussed the possibility of Ms. Tsikhanouskaya’s working visit to Kyiv to discuss, among other things, the issues that Belarusians currently face in Ukraine. They also discussed the possibility of assisting Belarusians in other cities (Mr. Klitschko is the chairman of the Association of the Ukrainian Cities). Besides, they talked about the economic pressure on the regime.

– Meeting with the co-chairman of the US Congress “Friends of Belarus” caucus Bill Keating.

Ms. Tsikhanouskaya spoke about the initiatives and organizations within the country that continue their work and seek new forms of struggle, despite the monstrous repressions.  Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya noted that the hardest thing is to find energy and optimism.

Ms. Tsikhanouskaya and Congressman Keating discussed the situation in the region, tensions in Russian-Ukrainian relations, and Russian exercises in Belarus. Ms. Tsikhanouskaya stressed that Russian troops must leave Belarus after the exercises, and if this does not happen, their further presence must be regarded as an unfriendly step that undermines the sovereignty of Belarus.

The congressman noted that the US is considering new strong sanctions against the Lukashenka regime, as well as assistance for the new Belarus after the changes. He also invited Ms. Tsikhanouskaya to take part in hearings in the US Congress.

– Short exchange with International Monetary Fund Manager Kristalina Georgieva.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya discussed with Kristalina Georgieva the issue of the billion dollars allocated to Belarus “to fight the coronavirus.”

Ms. Tsikhanouskaya noted that the funds are likely to be used for repression, and not for helping people. She called for finding a way to freeze these funds and emphasized the need to make sure that in the future, the regime in Belarus will not be able to abuse the mechanisms of international assistance.  Ms. Tsikhanouskaya was assured that the IMF was not going to provide money to the regime further.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya noted that Belarusians count on IMF assistance for the new Belarus after the changes – both financial and expert in relation to reforms. Ms. Tsikhanouskaya and Georgieva agreed to keep in touch.

– Short exchange with the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer.

Ms. Tsikhanouskaya highlighted the issue of the Belarusian Red Cross’ involvement in electoral fraud and its current involvement in covering the so-called “referendum” that the regime intends to hold in Belarus in February. The Belarusian Red Cross could help people, political prisoners, victims, but it has become part of the regime, and this is regrettable.

– Meeting with US Ambassador to Germany Amy Gutmann.

Ambassador Amy Gutmann has only recently been sent to Germany, and these are her first meetings in the new capacity.

Ms. Tsikhanouskaya noted the solidarity from the United States and assistance to Belarusians around the world. “American diplomats help us keep Belarus on the international agenda, and we know that many, like you, are concerned about us,” she said. She also talked about the recent hunger strikes of political prisoners, conditions in prisons, and the need to demand the unconditional release of all.

Ms. Tsikhanouskaya and Ambassador Gutmann discussed the possibility of organizing solidarity events with Belarus. They agreed to keep in touch through representatives of the Belarusian diaspora in Germany.

– Short exchange with Bill Gates.

– Short exchange with 68th US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Source: Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya