Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya's Speech at the Greens Digital Party Congress

“Dear ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to address you on behalf of Belarusians at this historic moment – the whole world is watching Germany this year. Ms. Baerbock, congratulations on such a significant achievement and now being officially confirmed as a chancellor candidate. This is a very high level of trust and also responsibility.

In your speech, you said, “This summer, the wind is changing, and many ask themselves what will come next. What will come when the crisis goes? It will be up to us whether we will be able to gain new strength and use this energy for a new beginning”.

A new beginning is what millions of Belarusians fought for in presidential elections in the summer of 2020. A thirst for a new beginning is a reason why I ran for president  – because there was no one else who could, as all other independent candidates, Viktar Babaryka, Valery Tsapkala, and my husband Siarhei Tsikhanouski, were illegally banned from running. A new beginning after 26 years of the assault on democratic institutions, contempt for human dignity, disrespect for the rule of law, hostile relations with neighbors, and overall incompetent governance. We were tired of this, and our nation stood up in the fight against unfreedom, injustice, and corruption. We stood up because we, too, wanted a new beginning.

But the regime's only response has been violence. 35,000 detentions, 3,000 politically motivated criminal cases, thousands of cases of beatings and torture. Lukashenka has turned Belarus into a nationwide prison camp. And then, he moved his practices into the international dimension.

On the 23rd of May, Belarusian journalist Raman Pratasevich was captured in a dramatic turn of events that shocked the world. An airplane with innocent European citizens on board was taken hostage for the sake of one man’s personal revenge. A week earlier, on the 16th of May, I took the same plane from Athens to Vilnius. It could have been me instead of Raman. Or my team. Or any of you. 

This is a wake-up call to all of us and a reminder that we need to act now. This regime is a threat to millions of Belarusians and Europeans. Europe can only be safe when Belarus is safe. Germany can only be safe when Belarus is safe. 

Sometimes people ask me how I feel, whether I am tired. Yes, I am tired, who wouldn’t be? But then I imagine what it is like in a prison cell in Belarus, being tortured and humiliated – like Belarusian activist Stsiapan Latypau who tried to kill himself by slitting his throat right in the courtroom. Just imagine the pain and suffering he has been through to take this desperate step. Prisoners in cells face sexual abuse, deprivation of medical assistance, walks. Cells are overcrowded. Detainees are deprived of sleep. Political prisoners are reportedly labeled by color tags.

My husband, Siarhei Tsikhanouski, has been in prison for over a year now and is still awaiting a court trial. My five-year-old daughter still thinks that prison is some interesting place – something similar to a work trip, although a very long one. And I can't explain what kind of work he does which doesn't let him see his family for so long. 

Many seem intimidated by the task we are facing, but we are not. This is the best chance Belarusians have had to get rid of this suffocating and inhumane regime. We need to own our future. For this, we need to be strategic about the democratic transition to a New Belarus. And here we value our international partners – your empathy, your mediation efforts, your strong voice, your role in the rebuilding of democratic Belarus, and finally, our future partnership.

It is a great pleasure for me to be welcomed by Robert and Analena here. From all my heart, I say thank you – thank you for your support, thank you for giving Belarus a voice in Germany, and thank you for your sincere engagement in Eastern Europe and the expertise that the Green Party provides – not since yesterday, but since many, many years ago when Belarus was on the sidelines of the international agenda. 

German support means a lot to us because it’s not just words, it’s empathy and actions. As Heinrich Böll once said, “Meddling is the only way to stay relevant”. Germany needs to play a key role in resolving the political crisis in Belarus and paving the way to new elections. Sanctions against sectors such as the petrochemical industry, potash, steel, and wood-processing are the only leverage to stop repressions, release political prisoners and conduct new elections. 

Meanwhile, It’s crucial to provide assistance to repressed families, journalists, human rights defenders – all those who suffer from the regime and who are at the forefront of this struggle.

To speak and act together on common challenges, we need to convene a high-level conference on the ways to resolve the crisis in Belarus. It would engage main Belarusian and international stakeholders to develop a roadmap to new elections. 

The Ryanair incident has shown that the international response can be swift, decisive, and effective. We can speak with a unified voice — for the sake of the freedom in Belarus, for the sake of European and global citizens’ safety. For the sake of all of us!  

I truly believe that we are on the path to a new chapter in Belarusian history. I am working on this task every day. We can’t let dictators make history because history and future belong to us who dare a new beginning.

Thank you!”.

13 June 2021 в 20:24