When Russians took to the streets in the tens of thousands on January 23 in the biggest wave of nationwide protests in years to demand the release of jailed opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, there were chants demanding the Kremlin critic’s release as well as calls for President Vladimir Putin to step down, Tony Wesolowsky writes for RFE/RL:
But there was something else seen and heard at rallies from Yakutsk to thousands of kilometers west in the capital, Moscow. Chants of “Long live Belarus,” rose from the crowds and some protesters held up white-and-red flags, the symbol of the protests against Alyaksandr Lukashenka that erupted last August after an election tens of thousands of Belarusians believe was rigged to hand the 66-year-old authoritarian leader another term in office.
The ongoing protests in Belarus offer an immediate opportunity for Biden to seize and to show strong, transatlantic leadership, according to Atlantic Council experts Anders Åslund, Melinda Haring (a former NED Penn Kemble fellow), John E. Herbst and Alexander Vershbow. We urge the incoming administration to take the following actions as a tangible manifestation of US leadership, values, and commitment to democratic change in Europe:
- Biden should meet with opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya within his first 100 days as President of the United States and designate a senior official to coordinate sanctions with the EU, the UK, and Canada.
- Biden should sign an executive order on Belarus that would sanction hundreds of Belarusian officials who violate human rights to serve as a deterrent against further escalation of repression. We can provide a list for consideration.
- The United States should refer to Lukashenka as the former president of Belarus. US Ambassador to Belarus Julie Fisher should take up her post in Minsk and visit Vilnius as appropriate but not present her credentials to Lukashenka.
- The United States should sanction companies that handle Lukashenka’s private finances.
The United States should threaten Russian companies and businessmen with sanctions in case they take over Belarusian companies or support Lukashenka’s regime financially or politically.
- The United States should also sanction Russian media and journalists participating in propaganda campaigns against the Belarus protest movement.
- Congress should give specific guidance to the State Department that it spend no less than $200 million annually on on civil society and media support for Belarus.
- Congress should double the budget of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL’s) Belarus Service, which is overseen by the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM). In addition, Congress and the leadership of the USAGM and RFE/RL should speak out forcefully when RFE/RL journalists are detained in Belarus and demand their immediate release…..RTWT
Minsk, Moscow, And Beyond: Belarus Protests Reverberate On Russian Streets https://t.co/TRYROsJ2uI
— Democracy Digest (@demdigest) January 27, 2021