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2020.08.24 14:00

Vilnius hosts international forum to discuss ‘democratic’ future of Belarus

BNS, LRT.lt2020.08.24 14:00

Vilnius is hosting a forum on the “democratic success” of Belarus. Attendees include high-ranking diplomats and officials from Belarus, Lithuania, various European countries, Russia, the UN, and the US.

The forum is named after Konstantinas Kalinauskas, known in Poland as Konstanty Kalinowski, leader of national revival in Poland, Lithuania and Belarus and one of the commanders of the 1863–1864 uprising against Tsarist Russia.

The discussions should become the main platform for Belarusian dissidents to express their opinions, produce joint strategies to fight Russia's aggression in the region and restore democracy in Belarus, the Institute of International Relations and Political Science at Vilnius University said in a statement.

The organisers of the forum include the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, ECR group in the European Parliament, Freedom House institute in Washington, Vilnius University, and the European Humanitarian University in Vilnius.

Lithuanian MP Žygimantas Pavilionis, one of the forum's organisers, said there's hope that this forum would lead to a common policy on Belarus in the West.

The forum's participants include the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Belarus Anais Marin, United States Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, Jean Bizet, chair of the French Senate's European Affairs Committee, EU Ambassador to Belarus Dirk Schuebel, Moldova’s former president and prime minister Maia Sandu, as well as Russia’s opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza.

Michael Carpenter, who served as foreign affairs adviser to the former US Vice President Joe Biden, will also attend the forum.

According to Pavilionis, many Belarusians live and work in Vilnius which is also home to the European Humanities University pushed out of Minsk by the Lukashenko regime.

"We need to pool those brains and create a joint and effective Western policy towards Belarus,” he told BNS. “We hope that after this forum, Western politicians will not limit themselves to politically correct statements that would allow the regime to survive.”

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a former Belarusian presidential candidate who is now in Vilnius, was also invited to attend the forum.

On Sunday, the forum's participants laid flowers at the Kalinauskas' place of death and took part in the Freedom Way, a human chain from Vilnius to the Belarusian border to express support with the neighbouring country’s protesters.

Kalinauskas (1838-1864) was one of the commanders of the 1863-1864 uprising against Tsarist rule in the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and he was executed in the Lithuanian capital's Lukiskes Square in 1864.

The remains of the anti-Tsarist uprising participants were reburried in November 2019 during a ceremony attended by leaders from Belarus, Poland, and Lithuania.

A live broadcast of the conference is available on YouTube.

Read more: Reburial of 1863 Uprising leaders: pivotal moment in relations of Lithuania, Poland and Belarus