Fearing persecution, Belarus activists flee to Lithuania

A few weeks ago, Belarusian sound engineers Vladyslav Sokolovsky and Kirill Galanov were arrested’ for enjoying an iconic Soviet-era protest song at a pro-government rally in Minsk.

Fearing persecution, Belarus activists flee to Lithuania

Now, they're among around twenty-four pro-opposition Belarusians who have sought refuge in neighboring Lithuania -- alongside opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.

Waves of repression in Belarus have turned Lithuania, an EU and NATO member, into an area of refuge for pro-democracy Belarusians.

Since the crackdown in Belarus, Lithuania has eased coronavirus restrictions to permit in people from Belarus on "humanitarian grounds".

Poland has also announced an easing of entry restrictions to let in fleeing Belarusians, also as offering to treat anyone injured within the recent violent crackdown on mass protests.

An interior ministry spokeswoman said Lithuania has accepted 22 Belarusian activists thus far -- half whom have requested political asylum.

"All of them are in safe environments," the spokeswoman said, adding that another 14 activists have received permission to arrive in Lithuania but haven't yet crossed the border.

Lithuania's offer of shelter for protesters is a component of a broader diplomatic effort to spice up international support for protests in Belarus.

These moves have angered Russia, which supports Lukashenko and has condemned Vilnius for what it calls an "undisguised interference within the affairs of this neighbouring state".

Lithuania and Belarus have close historic ties, dating back to the 14th-century domain of Lithuania, but have followed very different paths since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

The Baltic states are firmly anchored within the West, having joined the ecu Union and NATO in 2004, but Belarus has became one among the world's most isolated states under Lukashenko.

Belarusians like Sokolovsky may have little choice but to follow unfolding events from afar.

"I'm a musician, I play the guitar. However, at the instant, I'm not up thereto. I’m trying to resolve remotely all my problems reception ."


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