Belarusians in Estonia hold protest to support Ukraine, condemn referendum
Belarusians living in Estonia held a protest on Tallinn's Freedom Square on Sunday to show solidarity with Ukraine, which has been at war with Russia since Thursday.
Dozens of people gathered on the steps of the Victory Column with banners and signs and Ukrainian and red and white Belarusian flags to show their support for Ukraine. Some protesters had traveled from Tartu to attend.
They also chanted, amongst other things, "Belarus is not Lukashenko", "glory to Ukraine" and "long live Belarus".
Belarus is a long-time ally of Russia and analysts describe the country as Russia's "client state". While the war was started by President of Russia Vladimir Putin it is being supported by Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.
Belarus has allowed approximately 30,000 Russian troops to be stationed on its territory, which has allowed Russia to attack Ukraine from the north as well as the east.
Belarusian activist Irina Suursild, who has lived in Estonia for five years, attended the protest and stressed to ERR News that Lukashenko's support for the war has nothing to do with ordinary Belarusians.
"This is just Lukashenko's wish — all the Belarusians in Belarus and here are against this war," she said.
Philip Filimonau, a Belarusian who has been living in Tallinn for two-and-a-half years, called on the European Union to remain united in its approach to Russia.
"As a person who grew up in the country which suffered from Russian oppression, I am worried that governments of European Union may underestimate how unpredictable and violent Putin's regime may be," the student said. "We must keep actively fighting for peace and democracy, altogether."
The group was not only protesting against the war on Sunday. The same day Lukashenko held a referendum to maintain his position and increase his powers. Lukashenko is viewed as an illegitimate leader by many Belarusians after rigged presidential elections in 2020.
The protesters also rallied to raise awareness that ordinary Belarusians do not support the vote.
Both Filimonau and Suursild branded it a "fake referendum". Suursild said no one will take the results seriously.
Filimonau said, while some still try, many people in Belarus are afraid to publically show dissatisfaction because protesters have been beaten, arrested and killed in recent years. There are currently more than 1,000 political prisoners in Belarusian jails.
Suursild said: "People cannot go to the streets or the square to show they are against it, that is why all the Belarusians abroad are doing this."
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Editor: Helen Wright