In a call to resume mass protests in Belarus, opponents of President Alexander Lukashenko want to use this weekend's Victory Day celebrations to remind the world of the regime's ongoing human rights abuses and the continued resistance within the country. They're also asking Brussels to toughen its sanctions regime against Minsk.
Belarus saw protests of historic proportions sweep across the country after long-time leader Lukashenko said he had won the presidential vote in August 2020, which was widely viewed as rigged.
Authorities responded with a brutal crackdown on the demonstrations.
Speaking to Euronews, key Belarusian opposition figure Pavel Latushko called for new mass protests on Victory day this Sunday:
"On the one hand, this is a factor to show that we do not give up, that we do not agree with the falsification of the elections that took place on August 9, 2020, with the violence that the regime is exercising against Belarusians today.
"It is also very important for us to send a signal to the world community that Belarusians do not agree with the regime that exists in our country today.
On the other hand, this is a legal state event, this is the only opportunity to legally take part in mass events on the territory of Belarus, we have no other opportunities [to do that]."
Latushko says the current persecution of the opposition in Belarus is the worst terror Europe has seen in 40 years. And he called on the EU to apply tougher sanctions than those they've already imposed on Minsk, such as disconnection from the SWIFT payment system and other economic measures, similar to those the blocs' adopted in a resolution on Russia:
"We are talking about repressions against hundreds of thousands of Belarusians, millions of Belarusians at this time, when there are dead, killed, tortured.
And at this moment you are saying that the sanctions against 88 people and 7 enterprises that have no significance for the country's economy are sanctions? Well Lukashenko, unfortunately, only laughs at this."
Lukashenko, so far, has ignored repeated opposition calls for negotiations to re-run the election under free and fair conditions, to end police brutality and release political prisoners.