The democratic opposition in Belarus, represented by the Coordination Council has won the 2020 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the European Parliament President David Sassoli announced on Thursday.
“They have stood and still stay strong in the face of a much stronger adversary. But they have on their side something that brute force can never defeat – and this is the truth,” Sassoli said, congratulating the representatives for their “courage, resilience and determination.”
“Know that we are by your side,” the EP President added.
The initiative of brave women and political and civil society figures comprises of, among others, Svetlana Tsikhanovskaya, the main opposition candidate, Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievich, musician and political activist Maria Kalesnikava and political activists Olga Kovalkova and Veronika Tsepkalo.
The Coordination Council was established after the August 9 “rigged” elections in the country and the police crackdown on protesters calling for the resignation of the long-time ruler, Aleksander Lukashenko, with the aim to represent the civic nation of Belarus and to facilitate a peaceful transfer of power.
It was nominated by the Socialists and Democrats (S&Ds), the European People’s Party (EPP), and the Renew Europe group, while the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) party had nominated the democratic opposition in Belarus, as represented by Tikhanovskaya herself. Among the finalists also were the Archbishop of Mosul, Polish LGBTI activists and environmental campaigners in Honduras.
The prize is awarded annually to honour exceptional individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms, in memory of Soviet physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov.
EU agrees to sanctions against Belarus
Earlier in October, the EU27 leaders decided to sanction 40 senior Belarusian officials, responsible for falsifying the August 9 election results and for the violent attacks and unlawful arrests of demonstrators.
Lukashenko, who is currently running his sixth term in power, was not initially included in EU’s sanctions list that was agreed during an extraordinary summit on October 2, despite mounting calls by politicians, human rights activists and Tikhanovskaya.
However, following pressure by Germany, the bloc’s Foreign Ministers agreed in mid-October to also sanction Lukashenko, who will be targeted with a travel ban and his assets will be frozen.
They also decided to scale back their financial support to Belarus and to support the Belarusian people and civil society instead, in particular the victims of violence, civil society organisations and independent media.