Mihkelson: Lukashenko belongs in The Hague, not on phone calls with Merkel

Marko Mihkelson.
Marko Mihkelson. Source: ERR

Riigikogu foreign affairs committee chairman Marko Mihkelson (Reform) told ERR on Thursday that Belarusian regime leader Alexander Lukashenko should have to face the International Court of Justice in The Hague, instead of being able to call up German chancellor Angela Merkel.

This week, outgoing Chancellor of Germany Merkel and Lukashenko spoke twice on the phone due to the crisis on the Belarusian-Polish border, the first on Monday and the second on Wednesday.

This is the first time a western leader has spoken to Lukashenko since the presidential elections in August 2020 and the subsequent crackdown on the opposition and civil society.

The EU has sanctioned more than 160 Belarusian officials and businesses involved and another round of sanctions is currently under discussion. This time people who have helped orchestrate and facilitate migrants crossing from Belarus into the EU will be targeted.

The Merkel-Lukashenko calls, and their content, have divided European leaders, especially those in Poland and the Baltics.

Mihkelson was speaking to ETV's evening current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) on Thursday, November 18.

AK: Were you aware that [Angela] Merkel was going to get in contact with [Alexander] Lukashenko and what they were going to talk about?

Marko Mihkelson: Merkel, or rather her offices, notified different governments - Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, as far as I know - about an hour before the call. But they did not tell us what the call was going to be about. That was done after the call.

And what was the call about?

The main point was how these people - migrants, tourists, however you want to call them as they have made it to Belarus completely legally - can be helped back to their homeland and how to put an end to this so-called hybrid attack against European countries. But the main problem is how much trouble Merkel has caused us.

How can a situation develop, in which we hear from Belarusian sources that Europe has allowed 2,000 people to enter? How is this done through Belarusian information?

But here we actually see, as [Prime Minister] Kaja Kallas correctly said - a dictator only understands the language of power - and not these statements of goodwill, that we are willing to find a solution.

What kind of situation has developed? In actuality, there is now a situation in which we are all worried about these so-called migrants or tourists that the Belarusian powers are actually putting in troubling situations.

But we are not talking about the 900 political prisoners, the thousands of people that have been tortured over the last two years. Plenty of people are still missing after the events during the last presidential elections in August when Lukashenko usurped power in Belarus.

Lukashenko belongs in the International Court of Justice in the Hague and not on phone calls with Merkel.

Is this actually as Toomas Hendrik Ilves pointed out on Thursday, that a major European country does not take the positions of eastern Europeans into consideration, we have been pushed aside?

I think the feelings in Warsaw, when they heard this call was being made, were very sensitive. In that sense, I think Merkel, who is actually the outgoing chancellor, did not have a mandate from other partners, but this likely stemmed from a call with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, which she had a day before. Putin told her: "This is the wrong address, call Minsk".

But I think the question is in that our hope is certainly for this hybrid attack to end. I sincerely doubt it will end because of these phone calls, that is not the issue here.

Lukashenko wants to be recognized, but what is the solution for this crisis? Did these phone calls bring a solution? They did not.

I think the solution for this crisis is that there should be very strict sanctions imposed against the Lukashenko regime. And it saddens me to hear that European Union foreign ministers are currently fighting to keep [Belarusian airline] Belavia on the list of sanctioned companies.

I think that if we create the precedent of there being a channel through these phone conversations, through which we could solve the crisis, we are actually extending the issue itself.

Putin said [on Thursday] that Lukashenko could initiate a dialogue with the opposition, but the Belarusian opposition says it is certainly important to talk, but we should start with releasing political prisoners and by allowing the people of Belarus to freely make choices about their own future.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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