Latvia will allocate €150 000 to Belarusian civil society

On Monday, the government agreed at an emergency meeting to strengthen Belarusian civil society by allocating €150,000 to it, Latvian Radio reported August 17.

 According to Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics (“New Unity”), legal aid could also be one of the lines of support. According to Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior, Latvia is prepared to accept political asylum seekers, and services are ready for different scenarios.

In a press conference following the emergency meeting of the government, Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš (“New Unity”) said that the Latvian government supports the Belarusian public's expressed desire to live in a democratic and independent country.

Commenting on the allocation of money, Rinkevics said that representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will meet with non-governmental organisations related to Belarus. The meeting will discuss the strands of possible projects related to the funding.

"One of the directions is the provision of legal aid to those in administrative or criminal proceedings, as well as to support the media, in different forms,” the minister said.

He also recalled the European Union's steps, namely the agreement to launch a process for imposing individual sanctions. Rinkevics said that the Belarusian ambassador was called to the Ministry on Monday in connection with the statements made Sunday by President Alexander Lukashenko and the violence against the two detained Latvian nationals.

"This is in the context of the absolutely unfounded accusations that these protests are being driven in some way from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, and that we are preparing a military attack. We'll ask for explanations. We will also protest against the treatment of two nationals detained in Belarus last week. We also have news of the violence on the part of the authorities. So there is also work at diplomatic and political level,” said Rinkevics.

The minister added that at the government meeting on security, the responsible services have spoken and there is an agreement on a specific plan, a scenario in case of any development of the situation. Rinkevics mentioned that Latvia is ready to accept political asylum seekers, but currently a large flow of refugees is not predicted. For the time being, Latvia has not received requests for political asylum from Belarusian citizens. It is true that this could change depending on the development of the situation.

"The services are ready, the interior affairs system knows what to do, it has a plan, and it will take action if necessary. But it is in our interest to do everything politically and diplomatically so that this situation does not come to this and the change in Belarus is peaceful,” said Rinkevics.

Prime Minister Kariņš also stressed that the situation in Belarus is very dynamic and can develop in different ways. The government is actively following it. On Monday, the Saeima Foreign Affairs Commission also looked at a draft decision on the situation in Belarus. The Saeima is scheduled to decide on this at an emergency meeting on Tuesday. Parliament is expected to call for the re-run of the presidential elections in Belarus in line with internationally recognized standards, allowing the opposition to participate on equal terms.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Monday there would be no re-election. "We had an election. Unless you kill me, there will be no other election," Lukashenko was quoted on Belarusian media tut.by.

Meanwhile, the presidents of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland came to an agreement on a joint attitude towards the election. All four presidents shared the view that a re-election is necessary, as well as an European Commission meeting is needed to decide on sanctions against those Belarusian officials who have repressed the society or taken part in meddling with the election results.

In Belarus, citizens are protesting the results of the presidential elections held last week. According to the information provided by the Belarusian Central Election Commission, President Alexander Lukashenko received 80.1% of the votes and opposition candidate Svetlana Tihanovskaya – 10.1%.

Last week, Baltic Prime Ministers issued a joint statement for the elections to run again.

 

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