Following an open letter from over 250 Belarusian athletes and officials demanding the country correct its wrongdoings since the election on August 9, athletes have now come together to form the Free Association of Athletes of Belarus.
The group released its announcement featuring three-time swimming Olympic medalist Aliaksandra Herasimenia. In it, she states, “Will power, honor, courage are an inherent part of each of us. This is what leads to victory. To fair and honest victory. For violation of these principles, sportsmen are eliminated from the competition or worse from the team. If you can’t stick to them in life, sport is not for you.”
Aliaksandra Herasimenia announced the creation of the Free Association of Athletes of Belarus
“I am Aliaksandra Herasimenia. Three-time Olympic medalist, world and European champion in swimming.
Sport is not a profession, but a way of life. And all sports principles work in life pic.twitter.com/AZH7cf5HHw
— Voices from Belarus⚪️🔴⚪️ (@VoicesBelarus) September 2, 2020
“At this decisive moment for the life of our country, our people, every Belarusian athlete should ask himself a question: ‘Am I worthy to defend the honor of the country if I cannot defend my own?’”
The push from Herasimenia and other athletes follows the country’s re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko. According to multiple reports, Lukashenko has been accused of election fraud, opposition members had either “been jailed or gone into exile”, and protesters of his victory were beaten by law enforcement. These accusations have resulted in widespread protests across the country.
Last month, over 250 Belarusian athletes wrote an open letter to the government demanding that they:
- Deem the election on August 9 invalid due to fraud and have a re-election that is “held in accordance with all international standards, as well as the resignation of the current composition of the CEC with bringing to responsibility stipulated by the legislation”.
- Release all citizens detained during the protests who were not involved in illegal activities.
- Free and rehabilitate all political prisoners.
- Stop illegal activities of law enforcement officers and carry out checks on the legality of their actions.
- Identify and punish those responsible for the beatings and abuse of citizens, and have all guilty security members resign.
- Provide full-fledged medical, psychological, legal and material assistance to all victims of illegal actions
With the letter, the athletes also threatened to renounce their Belarusian national team status if their demands are not met. The Belarusian government has not offered any comment on the letter or the recent formation of the Free Association of Athletes of Belarus.
Several active and retired Belarusian coaches and swimmers signed the letter in addition to Herasimenia, including Anton Latkin, Elena Klimova, Pavel Sitenkov, Pavel Chaikov and Zakhar Zakrevsky.
Developments This Week:
Amid continuing protests, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has admitted to the media that he may have served as president for too long. However, he says he says he will not be stepping down due to the belief that his followers would be “slaughtered” if he were to do so.
Lukashenko’s opposition, led by several notable figures, including Maria Kolesnikova, has attempted to reach out to the president for peace talks. However, the president has declined to attend the meetings. According to protestors, on September 7, Kolesnikova was seen being taken by masked men, who stuffed her into a van. The government has since confirmed that Kolesnikova and other opposition leaders were arrested after an investigation into their actions. In a statement regarding the arrests, the authorities said that the, “creation and activity of the Co-ordination Council are aimed at seizure of state power, and at harming national security”.