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President Kaljulaid: The price the people of Belarus pay for freedom is cruel and inconceivable

 President Kaljulaid: The price the people of Belarus pay for freedom is cruel and inconceivable © Mattias Tammet/office of the president


President Kersti Kaljulaid met with Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya at Kadriorg this morning to discuss the latest developments in Belarus and the options open to Estonia and the democratic international community as a whole to exert pressure on the Belarusian regime.

“It is 800 km from Tallinn to Minsk,” the head of state remarked after the meeting. “That is not a great distance, but the people of Belarus are in fact much closer to us than that. We stand alongside you and we are doing everything we can to make it possible for the Belarusian people to be freely able to choose their own path. What path that is, which policy you choose, is entirely up to you. But every nation must have the right to choose for itself which path it takes.”

Reflecting on the past year, President Kaljulaid said that at the international level, what is happening in Belarus is ‘back in the news’. “Even as recently as a couple of years ago it was simple enough here in our European capitals to ignore the true nature of the Belarusian regime and to avoid dealing with it,” she admitted. “But that is no longer the case. Nobody is labouring under that illusion anymore, and that is down to what the people of Belarus have done to enlighten us.” The head of state added that it is perfectly understandable for everyone to want change to come immediately, because the terror under which the people of Belarus live on a daily basis – where free speech can cost you your own freedom or even your life – is as cruel and inimical as it is inconceivable.

President Kaljulaid stressed the need for subsequent European Union sanctions to have as crippling an effect on the Belarusian regime’s cash flow as possible. “Our meeting today reassured us that powerful, effective sanctions are in the interests of the people of Belarus and indeed are expected,” the head of state said. “They will have an impact on the residents of the country, and on the European companies operating their and their business, but that is a small price to pay compared to the price the Belarusian people have already paid.”

During their meeting, President Kaljulaid and Ms Tsikhanouskaya also discussed other ways of exerting pressure on the Belarusian regime. As a member of the UN Security Council, Estonia has already raised the issue twice among its members. “Starting from tomorrow we will be the presiding nation at that negotiating table, which is the most important of its kind in the world,” the head of state explained. “I promise that we will be prepared to act promptly, should we need to, and that we will keep Belarus in focus.”

In her statement, President Kaljulaid demanded the release of all political prisoners and called on the Belarusian authorities to cease the campaign of terror they are waging against their own people. “Stop the imprisonments and stop the torture!” she beseeched. “That they will stop at some point, and the Belarusians become a free people, is in any case inevitable. None of your actions will be forgotten. There is a face behind every mask; there is a person behind every order that is given. All of them will be held accountable for their actions eventually. It is our joint responsibility – in fact our joint obligation – to make sure of that.”

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is on a one-day visit to Estonia. She will be meeting with a number of politicians throughout the day before joining President Kaljulaid at Vaba Lava this evening for a performance of Error 403, a play dedicated to the tragic events of the Belarusian revolution being staged by Belarus Free Theatre founder Nikolai Khalezin.

Photos: Mattias Tammet/Office of the President of the Republic

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