Christopher Miller+ Your Authors @ChristopherJM Correspondent for @BuzzFeedNews, focus on Eastern Europe, US NatSec & foreign policy. 10+ years in Ukraine. Email/DM for Signal. [email protected] Sep. 11, 2020 1 min read + Your Authors

US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun on a call with reporters right now about Belarus says all unjustly detained people in Belarus must be released. He emphasized, "Vitali Shkliarov must be released." For context: 

Bieugn had several comments on the situation in Belarus. Here's a thread with those remarks. He said, "this is a battle between a ruler and the people he purports to rule." The belarus regime is not working for the best of the Belarusian people.

Biegun: After being "clearly rejected by his own people," Lukashenko using security forces, Moscow to prop himself up. It confounds US how Moscow can back such a regime, such violence, as well as violations of freedom of assembly, speech. "Why would Moscow support such a regime?"

Biegun specifically condemned Belarusian authorities' targeting of journalists. Repeated reports suggest authorities have harassed, beaten reporters... That has laid bare their blatant desire to limit free speech, etc.

Biegun: Where do we go from here? We are closely coordinating with allies. This includes sanctions. The US maintains sanctions on several individuals, including Lukashenko. And considering more. We call on Belarus authorities to accept OSCE offer to mediate the political crisis.

Notably, Biegun did not mention Lukashenko by name. He referred to him repeatedly as "the Belarusian ruler." "Belarusian people are entitled to free and fair elections in which they choose their own leaders. And they were denied that on Aug 9." Adds Lukashenko has no legitimacy.

"Regarding the visit between President Putin and the ruler of Belarus" on Monday, Biegun said, the US hopes Putin will raise the concerns Washington raises "about the unjust detentions of people and brutal violence used against civilians," as well as Russian journalists.

Biegun said of Lukashenko, who he did not mention by name even once: "The ruler needs to give way to the will of his people."

Nearly forgot: What about new US ambassador? (Lukashenko expelled last one in 2008; US has only 5 diplomats in Minsk now.) Biegun said Julie Fisher is still in approval process; US believes it's important to have ambo in Minsk. Doesn't sound like she'll be on the ground very soon

You can follow @ChristopherJM.


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