Directors of the Free Theater and the campaign Free Belarus Now took part in a range of meetings in the U.S. Department of State.
In Washington Natallia Kaliada and Mikalai Khalezin met with Thomas Melia, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of democracy, human rights and labor; Daniel Russell from the U.S. Department of State Bureau of European and Eurasian affairs; and U.S. Department of State Ambassador for global women's issues Melanne Verveer.
During the meeting, the parties discussed the need to intensify sanctions against Lukashenka’s regime; the cooperation between the campaign Free Belarus Now with the legal campaign that promoted the Magnitsky Act; the preparation of a broader list of Belarusian businesses and officials behind the repressions and falsifications; and promotion of the list in the EU where new legal terms and the Magnitsky Act allow for tougher pressure on the Belarusian powers.
Khalezin and Kaliada also told the U.S. diplomats about the situation around the political prisoners, conditions of their imprisonment and the intensified repressions against the opposition. Moreover, special attention was given to the wife of former presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov, journalist Iryna Khalip, and to the fact that Lukashenka has lied twice when he said that she can freely leave the country.
Representatives of the campaign Free Belarus Now urged to keep the sanctions against Belarus’ foreign minister Uladzimir Makiei who cannot enter the EU or the U.S., and to cancel the World Championship in ice hockey scheduled to be held in Minsk.
Officials from the U.S. Department of State assured the Belarusian guests that with the new leadership of the U.S. foreign affairs institutions, the Belarusian issue will remain on the agenda of Obama’s administration.
Mikalai Khalezin and Natallia Kaliada also met with Orest Deychakiwsky and Paul Carter from the U.S. Congress Helsinki Commission; representatives of the office of Senator Dick Durbin; and Freedom House President David Kramer.
“Our meetings had the format of consultations. We are pleased that Obama’s administration who had previously declared that the Belarusian dictatorship cannot be accepted stands on these principles. Today the European Union has new ways to press Lukashenka’s regime, and before we start lobbying certain decisions in the EU, we’d like to be certain that Obama’s administration supports us. We were reassured that the U.S. will not leave its position and will keep pressing the Belarusian dictatorship.
The Belarusian regime should realize that we will not stop searching for new methods of pressure, until the political prisoners are released and democratic elections are held,” Natallia Kaliada said in an interview to charter97.org.