Ulyana Belaya, a Belarusian contributor to JURIST, is currently a student in the International Law and European Union Law program at the European University for the Humanities in Vilnius, Lithuania. She left Belarus in September 2021. The text of this dispatch has been slightly edited to preserve the author’s voice.
On the morning of February 24, the Russian army began its invasion of sovereign Ukraine. They bomb civilian property in Ukrainian cities and use weapons against civilians. The Russian state denies the facts of attacking peaceful people and explains their aggression as the deliverance of Ukrainians from “creeping nationalism” and “Nazism”.
Horrified by what is happening, I would like to consider the participation of my homeland, the Republic of Belarus, in this war.
At the moment, many facts showing Belarusian support for the aggressor have been repeatedly proven. So far the main ones are:
- the fact that the Belarusian border guards allowed the Russian army to freely enter Ukrainian territory.
- the fact that ballistic rockets were launched from Belarusian territory (personally endorsed by Alexander Lukashenka, the illegitimate President of Belarus).
Belarus is therefore considered an aggressor by the international community and by the Ukrainian civilian population.
Obviously, it is impossible and wrong to deny the interference of the Belarusian state in the current conflict. Therefore, all sanctions against particular individuals or Belarusian public society, suggested or already applied by the European and global community, are rational and appropriate.
However, the accusations against ordinary Belarusians are completely reckless and inaccurate. Let me explain why:
1. Belarus has no legitimate authority since August 2020 (some experts say such a situation started after 1996).
2. an absolute majority of Belarusians are against the Lukashenko regime. This was proven by the 2020 election results (unfortunately the real results were only released by opposing democratic platforms, not election committees) and massive protests afterwards.
3. Belarusians constantly suffer from repressions. 50,000 Belarusians went through detentions and arrests. Right now, 1,077 of us are considered political prisoners. It is punishable not only to go to the streets and distribute leaflets, but also to join the organization of bird lovers or to put a “Like” on someone’s post in social media .
4. Belarusians are currently under occupation. The country is invaded by Russian forces and the state is completely under Russian control.
5. Belarusians themselves are doing their best to support Ukraine. Despite the risks, people transferred money to the Ukrainian army, they face propaganda on social networks or talk to others. Yesterday, February 27, they also rioted in the streets and around 440 people were arrested.
6. Belarusians who have been forced to live in their homeland are organizing and participating in anti-war protests around the world.
7. Belarusians actually join the Ukrainian army to protect this country.
I firmly believe that the peaceful citizens of Belarus should not be blamed for the aggression of their state. We the people do not want to be involved in the crime against Ukraine. We the people are against war. I would like to appeal to everyone in the world: make the difference between the Belarusian regime and the Belarusian people.