The Czech Republic has agreed to establish an official office in Prague for the Belarusian opposition as it battles a brutal crackdown at home under the direction of authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
“The Belarusian opposition has and will have the unequivocal support of the Czech Republic,” Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek said in a tweet announcing the move just weeks after opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya visited Prague.
The Belarusian opposition already has similar offices in Lithuania and Poland.
“A good reminder of 1920s when democratic Russians found a safe place in Prague” Jakub Janda, the director of the European Values Center for Security Policy in Prague, said in a tweet.
Read our coverage as Belarusians continue to demand the resignation of Alyaksandr Lukashenka amid a brutal crackdown on protesters. The West refuses to recognize him as the country’s legitimate leader after an August 9 election considered fraudulent.
Lukashenka’s regime has been under international pressure since it launched a brutal crackdown on the political opposition and the independent media in the wake of a disputed election in August 2020.
The protesters have said that election was rigged, and that their candidate was the victor. The EU, the United States, and other countries have refused to recognize the official results of the vote and do not consider Lukashenka to be the country’s legitimate leader.
The crisis hit a new level on May 23 when Belarusian authorities scrambled a military jet to escort an Athens-Vilnius Ryanair flight to land in Minsk in what many countries regarded as a “state hijacking.” After the plane, which was diverted just before it left Belarusian airspace, landed, law enforcement immediately arrested opposition blogger Pratasevich and Sapega, his Russian girlfriend.
The European Union, the United States, Britain, and Canada have previously slapped sanctions on Belarus over the diversion of the Ryanair flight, including asset freezes and visa bans imposed against dozens of officials, lawmakers, and ministers from Lukashenka’s administration and his family members, as well as Belarusian entities.