NewsBelarusian Leader Warns: Russia's Actions in Ukraine Threaten Global Security

Belarusian Leader Warns: Russia's Actions in Ukraine Threaten Global Security

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya
Images source: © Getty Images | Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto
9:04 AM EDT, March 17, 2024

"If Russia does not halt its actions in Ukraine, it may eventually pose a direct threat to us. Its appetite will only increase with time. It's imperative that we provide Ukraine with the support it needs to succeed. The Western world must comprehend that Kyiv is defending the liberties of us all," affirms Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the Belarusian opposition leader, in a discussion with Wirtualna Polska.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya: The demise of Alexei Navalny has heightened my fears. I worry Alexander Lukashenko will be encouraged, seeing the tepid global response to Navalny's murder.

For over a year, I've been without any contact with my husband, who is in solitary confinement. His well-being is unknown to me, a reality that's profoundly distressing for our children and me. Unfortunately, this agony is shared with countless other Belarusian families, who support one another to remain resilient.

How do you manage under such circumstances?

Focusing on my work keeps me going. Just as my husband cannot simply choose to leave prison, I too cannot abandon the responsibilities that rest on my shoulders.

Do concerns for your personal safety ever cross your mind?

No. Despite understanding the risks associated with my opposition activities, the potential repercussions do not deter me. Succumbing to fear would mean defeat. Inaction carries a far greater risk, and we owe it to future generations to act against tyranny now.

Given Lukashenko's ambitions, are you worried about intensified repression against the Belarusian opposition?

Increased repression seems inevitable, but it won't weaken our resolve. We'll keep championing the rights and freedoms of Belarusians and advocating for the release of all political prisoners. To counter Lukashenko's oppressive measures, it's vital we secure more international support from the West.

Can you quantify the political prisoner situation in Belarus?

We're aware of at least 1,500 political detainees, though the true number might be considerably higher. Many of these individuals are in dire health conditions without access to necessary medical care, endangering their lives.

About 100 people, found in especially severe circumstances, are listed on a humanitarian list. Without immediate action, the death toll in prisons will rise. International solidarity and proactive measures are key to addressing the regime's human rights violations.

What's the current status of Andrzej Poczobut?

His health situation concerns me deeply. As a victim of the regime's vendetta, we demand his immediate release and accountability for the regime's actions against him and others. There's also a pressing need for the global community to ramp up protections for journalists and political activists.

What major challenges does Belarus face?

We are grappling with the tyranny of two dictators - Alexander Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin. Our challenge is to defend Belarus against this dual threat. Lukashenko's regime, aiming to cement its power, has created a climate of repression, turning Belarus into a state resembling North Korea, with thousands detained under inhumane conditions and the dissolution of civil society.

Lukashenko supports Putin's efforts to diminish our national identity and independence, effectively annexing us to Russia. But Lukashenko's threat extends beyond our borders, causing a migration crisis and supporting Russia's aggression in Ukraine, such as facilitating the placement of Russian nuclear arms in Belarus.

Does the prospect of Belarus being absorbed by Russia concern you?

Indeed, the looming loss of Belarusian sovereignty is alarming. Such an event would not just be a tragedy for Belarus but would also destabilize the region and pose a global security challenge. The international community must acknowledge Belarus's strategic significance and band together to prevent it from falling into Russian hands. Most Belarusians aspire for a European future, opposing integration with Russia.

What do you expect from the Western world?

We anticipate a firm and unified stance from the West against the regime, involving effective sanctions and support for the democratic forces and civil society within Belarus.

The key is to remain vigilant and resilient in the face of Lukashenko's regime, which constantly seeks exploitable legal loopholes. We cannot afford to let Belarus become a mere consolation for Putin.

Regarding Putin's mentions of nuclear ambitions, how significant do you believe the nuclear threat from Russia is?

This about nuclear strategy is part of Putin's intimidation arsenal. While the threat is grave, succumbing to nuclear intimidation is not an option. Each time Western support for Ukraine has amplified, Putin has responded with nuclear provocations. The stationing of nuclear weapons in Belarus is a tactic of coercion and a blatant menace to neighboring states. Our response to such dictatorial threats must be resolute, without giving in to blackmail.

Is there a way to halt Russian aggression in Ukraine?

Supporting Ukraine comprehensively is crucial for its victory. The West needs to grasp the significance of Kyiv's struggle, which is essentially a battle for the freedom of the entire Western civilization. Should Russia's aggression go unchecked in Ukraine, it's only a matter of time before its expansionist ambitions target others. A Ukrainian triumph would signify a definitive setback for both Putin and Lukashenko.

Related content