Merkel Urges Belarus to End Repression, Free Political Prisoners

Germany and the European Union will continue to hold the Belarus government responsible for ongoing violations of human rights in the country, Chancellor Angela Merkel said in her weekly video message.

The elections in the country six months ago were not free, fair or transparent and neither Germany nor the EU accept Alexander Lukashenko as the winner, Merkel said, adding leaders in Minsk should end repression, release political prisoners and respect their citizens’ right to free speech.

“For half a year brave citizens in Belarus have taken to the streets week after week to peacefully demonstrate against the election fraud and for far-reaching changes in their country,” Merkel said. “Lukashenko’s government has had only one answer to this non-violent protest: violence. Those in power seem to think the world will forget these brave people. We must never allow that to happen.”

Lukashenko has been in office for 26 years and was sworn in for a sixth term in September, while hundreds of thousands of people have turned out across Belarus for regular demonstrations against his regime. He disregarded EU calls for new elections, pursued a sometimes violent clampdown on demonstrators and moved closer to Russia. The EU imposed a third round of sanctions against Belarus in December.

Germany will make it easier for people to move to the country if they want to leave Belarus, Merkel said, singling out victims of abuse, political opposition members and those in need of humanitarian aid. The country will offer scholarships and help independent media, she added.

“This won’t determine the outcome of the struggle between right and oppression in Belarus, that’s not possible from the outside,” Merkel said. “But it shows the brave people there that we stand by their side and hear them.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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