U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary Daniel Russell held several meetings with representatives of nongovernmental organizations and some contenders for the presidency during his one-day visit to Belarus. Talking about the pre-election situation in Belarus, Daniel Russell expressed the U.S. concern over unequal access of candidates to the media sources and a small number of opposition representatives in election commissions.
At the same time, Daniel Russell noted some positive aspects of the current election campaign. Among other things, an American diplomat mentioned an opportunity for contenders to collect signatures absolutely free, as well as the presence of international observers, invited to the elections, BelaPAN.
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary stated that the elections in Belarus should comply with the international standards, also followed by the United States. «That is, we don’t ask Belarus to do what is not done by us,» Daniel Russell said.
U.S. Not to Lift Sanctions against Belarus, Russell
Daniel Russell also said that the possibility of relations normalization between Belarus and the United States remained constrained. «Our financial and visa sanctions against Belarus remain in force, since the progress in democracy and human rights is rather limited in the country,» the diplomat said.
However, according to Daniel Russell, the United States will «welcome the positive steps in this direction to let us remove sanctions.» Nevertheless, the U.S. side has not so far seen changes in Belarus, «which would change the whole policy towards Belarus,» U.S. Representative said.
Meeting with Russell was «Traditionally» Held, Romanchuk
Candidate for the presidency of the United Civil Party Yaroslav Romanchuk noted after meeting with U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary that the «exchange of views had taken place in the traditional manner.» «We talked about the situation in Belarus, and Daniel Russell stated in a traditional form that the U.S. was concerned about the presence of political prisoners and non-democratic elections in Belarus,» Yaroslav Romanchuk said.
The meeting was also attended by presidential contenders Ales Michalevic and Nikolai Statkevich, as well as by representatives of Andrei Sannikov, Vital Rymasheuski and Vladimir Niakliaeu.
According to Pavel Seviarynets, representing Vital Rymasheuski at the meeting, the meeting was mainly dedicated to the upcoming presidential elections. «The problem of monitoring the elections and the issue of political prisoners in Belarus were in the spotlight. I also raised the issue of registration of the «Belarusian Christian Democracy» and the problem of Minsk church «New Life.» In general, my impression is that the U.S. is now aiming to do something for democracy during the presidential election in Belarus,» said Pavel Seviarynets.
During the meeting with the independent observers, the sides exchanged views on the current election situation and possible developments in the pre-and post-election period. According to the lawyer of the Campaign «Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections» Valentin Stefanovich, Daniel Russell stated the dual position of the U.S.: pragmatic, on the one hand, and principle, on the other. «The United States cooperate with Belarus in various fields, but, standing for the improvement of relations between the two countries, the U.S. are not going to retreat from the requirements of human rights and democracy,» Valentin Stefanovich said. According to him, Belarus «despite the decrease in repression, shows no evidence of systemic changes, let along the changes in legislation.»