Estonia marks Day of Solidarity with Belarus

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Stenbock House, the seat of the government, was lit in red and white on February 7 to show solidarity with Belarus. Source: Stenbock House.

On Sunday, Estonia marked the international Day of Solidarity with Belarus by issuing a joint statement with Latvia and Lithuania and illuminating important buildings in red and white.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) said: "On the Day of Solidarity with Belarus, it is important to show that the international community supports democratic processes in Belarus and has not forgotten the people of Belarus,"

The foreign ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania marked the occasion by releasing a joint statement expressing solidarity with the people of Belarus and calling on the Belarusian authorities to release all people who have been detained arbitrarily.

The statement, republished below, stresseds the importance of launching a genuine political dialogue, which would result in new, free and democratic elections.

Additionally, on Friday, Liimets spoke with the leader of the Belarusian opposition Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and reaffirmed Estonia's continued support to the people of Belarus.

"For six months now, the people of Belarus have been peacefully standing up for freedom, democracy and their fundamental rights. Estonia cannot accept violations of human rights and the brutal suppression of democratic opposition," Liimets said, promising to keep events in Belarus on the agenda of international organizations.

Both Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) and President Kersti Kaljulaid tweeted their support for Belarus on Sunday. Kaljulaid wrote on Twitter: "Standing in solidarity with the people of Belarus who wish to choose their own future. #StandWithBelarus".

While Kallas wrote: "The People of Belarus are not isolated in Europe. We #StandWithBelarus for human rights, freedom and democracy."

A support rally for Belarus was also held on Tallinn's Freedom Square. Those who attended held flags, handmade placards and a banner that said "182 days of protests".  

A rally was held in support of Belarus on Tallinn's Freedom Square on February 7. Source: ERR

On Sunday evening Tikhanovskaya tweeted her thanks to Estonia, writing "Aitäh!" the Estonian word for thank you and retweeting a tweet from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which showed Stenbock House and the ministry illuminated in red and white.

Last month, Tikhanovskaya was awarded the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Order of Merit during a trip to Tallinn.

Joint statement between Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

The full statement is republished below:

The foreign ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, on the occasion of the Day of Solidarity with Belarus, express their support for the people of Belarus.

Since August, the people of Belarus have peacefully stood for freedom and democracy. Week after week and month after month, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have been impressed by their courage and drive for fundamental rights and free and fair elections.

This courage has been met with brutality and lawlessness by the authorities of Belarus. The aim is clear: to stifle the voices of peaceful demonstrators, to deny their right to freedom of peaceful assembly and suppress their legitimate demand for free and fair elections.

The situation in Belarus continues to deteriorate. The violent crackdowns by the authorities of Belarus on peaceful protesters continue to this day.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania reiterate their repeated requests to the Belarusian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all arbitrarily detained persons, including political prisoners and media workers, and hold perpetrators to account. They also call on the authorities to avoid further use of violence, engage in a genuine political dialogue with the people and ensure the holding of free and fair elections in line with international standards and under the OSCE / ODIHR's observation.

Just as the people of Belarus do not tire of standing up for their basic human rights and resisting violence, the international community must maintain its focus on what is going on in Belarus, monitor the situation closely and take action.

Tonight public buildings in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will be lit up in the Belarusian national white-red-white colors, to show solidarity with the people of Belarus.

#StandWithBelarus

How has Estonia supported Belarus?

Over the past six months, Estonia has repeatedly raised the issue of Belarus at the European Union and other international organizations. On Estonia's initiative, the UN Security Council has held two high-level Arria-formula virtual meetings on human rights and media freedom in Belarus.

Estonia has also increased its support to the civil society of Belarus. Last year, Estonia allocated €100,000 to support the civil society and free media in Belarus and provide psychological assistance to the victims of the regime's violence.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also allocated €50,000 for Estonian government scholarships to Belarusian students at the European Humanities University in Vilnius and €20,000 to the activities of the Lifeline Fund in Belarus to help protect non-governmental organizations from persecution by the authorities. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also supporting the Belarus projects of the European Endowment for Democracy (EED) with €50,000.

The Foreign Ministry has earmarked €800,000 in total for development cooperation projects with Belarus between 2021 and 2023. The projects focus on higher education, especially technical education, and supporting the independent media of Belarus. The plans also include raising awareness about democracy, rule of law and health.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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