Hennadiy Maksak: Europe must react adequately to the events in Minsk

Piotr Kuchta, EuroBelarus Information Service

A new wave of political repressions should make the EU return to tougher policy towards the Belarusan regime.

On the eve of March 25, the Steering Committee of the EaP Civil Society Forum on Mass Repressions in Belarus issued a statement, which called for “the authorities of Belarus to be tolerant, refrain from using violence and repressive measures against participants of the peaceful demonstration scheduled for March 25, 2017 in Minsk and other cities of the country, and also to be open to dialogue with peaceful demonstrators.” As you know, the expectations were not justified: the rally was brutally dispersed, hundreds of people got arrested and some demonstrators were beaten up.

“As it turned out, despite the new stage of relations with the European Union, the official Minsk have not changed its approach to observing and respecting human rights,” Hennadiy Maksak, Ukrainian representative of the Steering Committee of the EaP Civil Society Forum, member of the Steering Committee of the Ukrainian National Platform of the EaP CSF stated in an interview with the EuroBelarus Information Service.

“The Civil Society Forum of the EaP was very concerned about the violation of human rights by Decree No. 3 itself, which is unconstitutional in the opinion of our Belarusan colleagues. The opinion that we share,” started Hennadiy Maksak. “But in addition to the decree itself, it was clear that since February the number of human rights violations in Belarus began to increase. Then the situation simply escalated into violence towards protesters, representatives of the opposition and civil society. It can be argued that human rights violations in Belarus have become massive scale.”

“As a representative of the Ukrainian National Platform, I can not help noting that Minsk draws my country into this conflict between the state and society as some sort of scarecrow,” believes Hennadiy Maksak. Let us recall, Alexander Lukashenko called Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania countries where Belarusan militants in special camps are trained to commit provocations in their homeland. “Camps for militants, a supposed breakthrough of a vehicle with explosives from Ukraine — we understand why the Belarusan regime does this, but we would really not want the Belarusan society to perceive Ukrainians as enemies or as people who do not care what happens in Belarus,” emphasized Hennadiy Maksak.

In the opinion of Hennadiy Maksak, the March events should be followed by a “harsher reaction from the European institutions, including sharper criticism from the states accused of preparing destabilization of Belarus by the Belarusan propaganda.” “The only reaction of our Ministry of Foreign Affairs so far has been refutation — I believe it's too soft, given the seriousness of the charges. And a new wave of political repressions should bring back the EU's tougher policy towards the Belarusan regime. Europe now can not act as if nothing had happened,” argued Hennadiy Maksak.

According to the expert, the Ukrainian society follows the Belarusan events with great attention. “Belarus now becomes of great importance not only for the expert community, but also for ordinary citizens. Particular attention is given to Belarus in the context of security problems: we have a common border. Regarding the protests: we perceive them as a novelty for your country. It's not even about the massive scale or the frequency of the rallies, but the mood of the participants. And we understand that it is not the opposition, it is actual popular discontent, which shows that the regime has made a mistake after all,” Hennadiy Maksak concluded.