The Belarus government is using migrants to blackmail Europe according to the head of the country’s opposition, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.
In an interview with Euronews Greece in Athens, where she was appearing at the Athens Democracy Forum, she explained how Belarusian authorities are putting pressure on European borders.
“All those groups of people that come to the borders, they are coming with KGB people, with Belarusian (secret police). They are followed by people from the system. This is why they are “organised groups”, said Tsikhanouskaya.
"Of course, it is a difficult question for Europe what to do with those people, because these migrants are also hostages of the system. They are not guilty that they became victims of this regime. But you should not allow the regime to blackmail Europe with migrants.”
President Alexander Lukashenko is planning a constitutional referendum seeking to legitimise a redistribution of powers and establish a new governing body called the All Belarus People's Assembly.
But the Belarus opposition have said they will not recognise the result.
“Everybody in Belarus understands that this referendum is like “dust into the eyes” of Europe. Like 'look, I am doing something for the democratisation'. I think that people will be so scared because of violence that nobody will go to vote," Tsikhanouskaya said.
Earlier this year, in May, the opposition leader took part in another democracy forum in Athens.
Two opposition supporters also attended but on their return journey, they were arrested in Minsk after their plane was forced to land in Belarus. It's still unclear what happened to Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega.
“We are waiting for the official results of the investigation by ICAO (the UN aviation agency). After this, we will make conclusions and proceed to bring the guilty people to justice.”
Tsikhanouskaya has already discussed the possibility of starting international criminal proceedings over the incident with the Greek Interior Minister, Makis Voridis.