Gallery: Belarusians mark Freedom Day in Tallinn
Belarusians living in Estonia and Finland held a rally in Tallinn on Saturday to mark Belarus' 105th Freedom Day.
Dozens of people holding red and white flags, the flag of independent Belarus and a symbol of the opposition movement, gathered at the monument to Estonia's first president, Konstantin Päts, in Tammsaare Park on Saturday afternoon.
After several speeches, a procession took place through the Old Town to Vene tänav 19 where flowers were laid under a plaque commemorating the military-diplomatic mission of the Belarusian People's Republic (BPR).
Ambassadors from the U.S.A., Poland, and Lithuania were in attendance as well as Estonian MPs.
Belarus declared independence on March 25, 1918, after the collapse of the Russian Empire. While Estonia and other countries recognized Belarus' independence, the BPR was short-lived, lasting less than two years before it was absorbed into the USSR.
The March 25 anniversary has come to symbolize Belarusians' struggle for freedom and independence, one of the rally's organizers Irina Suursild told ERR News.
"In 2023, rallies are being held all over the world, except for Belarus, which is still dependent on Russia, and Belarusians who want change are imprisoned, subjected to repression, and forced to emigrate," she said.
"Our fight for freedom against the Russian Empire, the USSR, regimes of Lukashenko and Putin is going on. Unfortunately, with new victims, but also with new heroes and heroines. Today is not only a historic date, but it is also a symbol and, at the same time, a goal to return to our history, national identity and independence."
Suursild estimated 80 people attended Saturday's rally.
Following the 2020 presidential election, the leaders of the Belarusian opposition were forced into exile after a brutal crackdown by leader Alexander Lukashenko and his security forces. Over 1,500 people since have been detained as political prisoners, displaying a red and white flag is punishable by law, and Freedom Day is not marked within the country. Belarus is also aiding Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Estonia recently assigned a diplomatic representative to work with the opposition in exile in Vilnius, Lithuania.
President Alar Karis on Saturday emphasized Estonia's support for Belarus' democratic society and said the country continues "to support the Belarusian people and to work for a democratic, independent and free Belarus".
Today is #BelarusFreedomDay. Estonia strongly supports the Belarusian democratic society and is committed to continue to support the Belarusian people and to work for a democratic, independent and free #Belarus. https://t.co/WIeW5Da1O4— Alar Karis (@AlarKaris) March 25, 2023
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Editor: Helen Wright