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The European Parliament awarded today its most distinguished Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to the democratic opposition in Belarus*, who, under the leadership of the country’s brave women, have for the past four months been tirelessly protesting against the dictatorship, violence and repression of Alyaksandr Lukashenka and the stolen presidential election of 9 August.

The S&Ds hope that this award will encourage the Belarusian people to continue their fight for a free and democratic Belarus, while at the same time will help protect them from the regime’s unprecedented violent repression.

S&D vice-president in charge of the Sakharov Prize, Kati Piri, said:

“I was extremely moved to see Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Veranika Tsapkala receiving the 2020 Sakharov Prize in the European Parliament today. From the very beginning, we championed this award to show our solidarity with the people of Belarus in their fight for fundamental rights, freedom and democracy, and in particular to highlight the pivotal role of the country’s brave women in bringing change to Belarus. The moment you see women on the streets, that is when any dictator should be afraid. The leadership of the brave women of Belarus is an absolute inspiration to the world. With their vision, strength and determination, they united the country in confidence showing that, after 26 years of darkness, change is truly possible.

“It is clear that Lukashenka and his regime have lost any kind of legitimacy. His only tool is violence. I am horrified by the level of police brutality against Belarusians whose only crime is that they peacefully stood up for their rights and freedom. As of today, more than 32,000 people have been detained, there are more than 4,500 serious allegations of torture, and countless people have disappeared. Some paid the ultimate price. The EU must impose sanctions on all individuals, state-owned companies and oligarchs who finance the regime and torture peaceful protestors. In addition, the EU must step up its financial, technical and political support for the Belarusian people. It is their right to decide on their own future. We will not let them down.”

MEP Isabel Santos, S&D spokesperson on human rights, added: 

“The Belarusian opposition deserves this award for their courage, their determination, their wisdom, and their fight for freedom and democracy in their country. I would like to say particularly to the young girls in Belarus: never give up, maintain the fight for a better future for you and future generations. After three decades of dictatorship, you are bringing incredible hope for a free and democratic Belarus. Hopefully this will soon come true.

“The European Union needs to make a clear call for new, free and fair elections in Belarus, under international standards, with a vigilant observation of the international bodies. I also believe that the European Union should continue incising sanctions against Lukashenka’s regime since he is not willing to step down. It must be clear that we do not accept his oppressive dictatorship in Europe anymore!”

Note to editors:

*The democratic opposition in Belarus, is represented by the Coordination Council, initiative of brave women - main opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya; Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievich; musician and political activist Maryia Kalesnikava; and political activists Volha Kavalkova and Veranika Tsapkala - as well as and political and civil society figures - video blogger and political prisoner Siarhei Tsikhanouski; Ales Bialiatski, founder of the Belarusian human rights organisation Viasna; Siarhei Dyleuski; Stsiapan Putsila, founder of the Telegram channel NEXTA; and Mikola Statkevich, political prisoner and presidential candidate at the 2010 election.

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