10 December 2022 marks two years since the opening of the People’s Embassies of Belarus. During this time, over 20 People’s Embassies and Consulates were opened and became fully-fledged participants in the diplomatic work of democratic Belarus.
The People’s Embassies (PEs) remain an independent diaspora initiative, run by volunteers, which has not only organised dozens of events and meetings in different countries but is also continuing its expansion across the world.
The main focus for the People’s Embassies in 2022 was to provide support for Ukraine. The PEs condemned the invasion by Russian troops, with numerous letters of support sent to Ukrainian ambassadors. They also denounced the so-called “referendums” in the territories occupied by the Russian army. The representatives of the PEs supported the anti-war
manifesto of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and enhanced it by formulating an action plan for the Belarusian diaspora – the main point being to provide support for Ukraine, working with media and politicians to ensure a better understanding of the fundamental difference between the desires of the Belarusian people and those of the Lukashenka dictatorship
regime, which is involved in the war.
Since the beginning of the war, representatives of the PEs and the diaspora groups have participated in actions of support by volunteering to help Ukrainians, collecting humanitarian, technical and financial aid, cooperating with the Ukrainian diaspora in organizing events and activities, fundraising for different initiatives and initiating contact with politicians and media. In Sweden, together with the “Belarusians of Sweden” community, the PE hold weekly actions in support of Ukraine. They have also donated a car filled with food and medicines to the Kalinouski Regiment1 in Ukraine and participated in a fundraising campaign to buy drones for Belarusians who are fighting in Ukraine. In Germany, an alliance of democratic parties and civil society has been formed to counter the Russian marches which support the military aggression in Ukraine.
By initiating media campaigns and providing advocacy support, the People’s Embassies have been defending and representing the interests of Belarusian citizens in many countries. In Estonia, they managed to secure humanitarian visas for Belarusians and residence permits for students and IT specialists. In Slovenia the PE prevented the extradition of a Belarusian citizen who was close to being deported (on the request of Interpol). After visiting the person in question in prison, a representative of the PE in Slovenia was able to prepare a strong case, proving that a citizen fleeing Belarus on political grounds was indeed a
political refugee and should he be deported he could have been subjected to the persecution and torture in Belarusian prisons, which was taken into account by the court. Work is underway in Sweden to make it easier for Belarusians to obtain international
protection. All the People’s Embassies are consulting on legalisation and obtaining documents in their countries.
In 2022 a lot of work has been done with politicians, MEPs and parliaments in the countries. The event “Belarus and Ukraine- free from the Empire” was held in the Scottish Parliament, with an invitation to Ukrainian representatives. In Sweden, the Friendship Group with Democratic Belarus resumed its work after the parliamentary elections. In Germany, representatives of the People’s embassy have initiated an open letter to Chancellor Olaf Scholz calling for support for Maria Kolesnikova. This letter has already been signed by over 100 public figures and politicians.
The main task of the PEs is to disseminate information about the situation in Belarus. To this end, representatives of the People’s Embassies prepare and send weekly news digests to local politicians, meet with government representatives, parliamentarians and diplomats, organise joint projects with public associations in their countries, give interviews to the media
and appear on radio and TV. The PEs provide information and organisational support to the democratic forces of Belarus in their countries: they prepare analytical documents, help organise official visits, meetings and interviews. Representatives of the People’s Embassies have provided great assistance during the visits of Sviatlana Tihanowska to Estonia, Spain, UK, Scotland, Austria, Sweden, Germany and other countries. During weekly meetings with professional diplomats of the Office of Svetlana Tihanowska and the United Transition Cabinet, an international agenda is agreed and joint actions are planned.
The Belarusian agenda is promoted through cultural, social and sporting events. In Spain, representatives of the People’s Embassy took part in the CIDOB conference Living in an “area of vital interest” for Russia, which highlighted the need for a strategic and coherent European policy towards the former Soviet Union. In Slovenia, the premiere of the film Kurazh and an exhibition of Vladimir Cesler’s political poster was held and a Belarusian library was launched. In Scotland, there were readings of stories by political prisoners “The people woke up: the 2020 revolution in Belarus” and an “Ivulin Cup” football match between parliamentarians of the Scottish Parliament and the Belarusian diaspora.
The work to support political prisoners and affected Belarusians and Belarusian women continues; they receive humanitarian and financial aid, pay for food parcels and support for their families. Representatives of the embassies cooperate with the association Libereko on the “adoption” of Belarusian political prisoners by politicians. Belarusians in Italy implemented the projects “Vacation in Italy for children of political prisoners” and “Gifts for children of political prisoners” in 2021 and 2022. In Scotland, the civil initiative “Scotland for Europe” was able to hold several events to raise an awareness about breachnof human
rights in Belarus.
The People’s embassies become “entry points” for all matters concerning Belarus, gradually replacing Lukashenko’s embassies: at international events; in relations with local politicians and the diplomatic corps; advocating for the interests of Belarusians and Belarusians abroad. At the annual liquidation ceremony of the concentration camps Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora, the delegation from Belarus, headed by Pavel Latushka, included representatives of the German People’s Embassy and, at Mauthausen, representatives of Austria and Slovenia. The family of the Belarusan detained in Slovenia upon Interpol request
applied for support to the People’s Embassy of Belarus, not to the embassy in Vienna. Representatives of the Austrian Embassy represented Belarus at the Day of Europe in Vienna, representatives of Italy – at the New Year’s fair with national symbols and goods from Belarus, representatives of Slovenia and Austria – at the charity “diplomatic” fair Sila Bazaar in Ljubljana.
This is how the international recognition of the People’s Embassies is gradually taking place, and another aim of the initiative – “the phones at Lukashenko’s embassies must remain silent” – is being realised.
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