Statement by Russian civic organisations in support of the citizens of Belarus

3 October 2020

Published by Moscow Helsinki Group

Source: Ekho Moskvy

We share the values you are fighting for. We are in solidarity with you and we believe in you.

by members of Russian civil society organisations to the citizens of  Belarus

Dear Friends!

We are well aware that the apparent indifference of Russian public opinion with regard to the events taking place in Belarus may be the cause for much perplexity among the country’s citizens who are currently fighting for freedom, truth and human dignity.

We must tell you we are not indifferent to your struggle. All of that part of Russia that has managed to preserve its reason and honour over many years until today, despite continuous pressure on fundamental rights and freedoms and the huge impact of a giant propaganda machine, far more effective than the Soviet Agitprop, is with you and for you.

We follow with amazement and admiration the grandiose events unfolding before our eyes – the birth of a civic nation in mass non-violent protest. We do not believe a word of the dictator and his entourage who are frantically trying to keep hold of power that does not belong to them. We share the values for which you fight. We believe you and we believe in you.

We watch with horror and pain the atrocities of OMON in Minsk and other Belarusian cities. With horror and pain, we feel our helplessness and inability to help you, especially evident against the background of the simplicity, beauty, goodness and strength of your protest movement. It is precisely this feeling that is the true reason for the silence of many Russians. We are ashamed of our powerlessness.

Of course, social networks – the only segment of our media space not yet under the control of Putin’s censors – are overflowing with Russian posts in support of your struggle for freedom. Of course, dozens and hundreds of our fellow citizens – not only in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but also in other Russian cities – constantly take part in pickets in solidarity with you, Belarusians. Of course, many Russian cultural figures have spoken out with great clarity on about events in Belarus. Of course, the Russian human rights community and its organisations have issued a number of appeals protesting against police violence and lawlessness committed by Lukashenko and his secret police in Belarus. Of course, some of us are working with international structures and foreign partners in your support.

But we understand perfectly well how inadequate our efforts are, and that the Belarusian people has the right to expect more significant action from the Russian people. Once upon a time, in January 1991, hundreds of thousands of people went out onto Moscow’s streets to show their solidarity with Latvia. Six years ago, tens of thousands of people went on a Peace March against the war with Ukraine. But now feelings of apathy, indifference, fatigue and hopelessness that have seized our citizens stop even ten thousand people from marching. This is the great difference between our two nations – one of them has suddenly and rapidly transformed into a society of free and responsible citizens and a people that, though still not free of its stupor, has ceased to feel itself a subject of history and politics. Having become strong, it is difficult for you to understand our current powerlessness.

So far, we have not been strong enough to influence our government, which has shamefully recognised the legitimacy of a dictator and indeed is helping him to stay in power. Our government destroyed the link between government and civil society long ago and treats it as an internal enemy. The voices of those who feel solidarity with you – and there are many of us in Russia – are not heard either on official Russian television or in the official Russian press. Perhaps the example of the brotherly Belarusian people will awaken Russia from its lethargy. It can’t be ruled out – we don’t know what the future will bring.

But you must know that democratic Russia is categorically against the support given by the Russian leadership to Aleksandr Lukashenko. And, of course, we will not be silent on the matter if our government attempts to take a course of action aimed at the destruction or limitation of Belarusian sovereignty. 

We recognise that in not participating fully in your struggle, we don’t look good in your eyes, or indeed in our own. Unfortunately, today, we cannot help you in any way apart from words of solidarity and support. We can only say that we are with you and that we wish you victory. We hope that soon we will be able to stand by your side and not retreat. It is very important to us that Belarusians know this.

For your freedom and for ours!

Long live Belarus!

3rd October 2020

For a list of participants in Russian civic organisations and movements that have signed the statement, see here.

Translated by Simon Cosgrove, Verity Hemp and Cameron Evans

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