On February 27, Minsk again squandered an opportunity for genuine national dialogue about the country’s future. Instead, this referendum further entrenches Belarus in the darkness of the past, an affront to the millions of Belarusians who voted in the August 2020 fraudulent election and the hundreds of thousands of Belarusians who took to the streets demanding democratic reforms following it. From its inception the referendum process lacked credibility and legitimacy and was a weak imitation of democratic procedures. It was designed only to strengthen the regime’s grip on power.
Given the regime’s continued complicity in Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine, the United States is deeply concerned that the removal of Belarus’ constitutional commitment to remain neutral and nuclear-free, in particular, will further erode the country’s sovereignty and independence.
A sham referendum does not bring about real reform but action by the regime can. We call on the Belarusian authorities to release all political prisoners, end the repression of civil society and independent media and engage in meaningful dialogue with all elements of Belarusian society – including the democratic forces inside and outside the country – on the future of Belarus, including free and fair elections under international observation.
And we call on the regime to demand an immediate end to Russia’s attack on Ukraine and to end Belarus’ own role in this catastrophic conflict.