Over 250 athletes and sports industry members from Belarus have signed an open letter demanding the country’s authorities right the wrongs that have gone on since the presidential election on August 9.
The group of sports figures, which includes three-time Olympic swimming medalist Aliaksandra Herasimenia, demand re-election, the release of all innocent citizens, and to identify and punish those responsible for the abuse that has gone on.
“We categorically condemn numerous facts of falsification of the election results of the President of the Republic of Belarus, and also the manifestation of gross violence by the security forces against the peaceful protesting citizens,” the open letter reads, translated from Belarusian.
On August 9, incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko was re-elected to a sixth term in office, now having won all of the country’s elections dating back to 1994, with the results showing he received 80% of the vote. However, Lukashenko has been widely accused of committing election fraud, and his opposition members had either “been jailed or gone into exile” and protesters of his false victory were beaten by law enforcement.
The European Union has imposed sanctions on the Belarusian officials deemed responsible for both the violence against protesters and election fraud.
What The Open Letter Demands
- 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
The letter also says that the athletes “are ready to give up playing for the national team of Belarus” should these demands not be met, and that they will act in solidarity if any pressure or threats come their way. If that were to happen, they would notify the International Olympic Committee (IOC), along with other international sports federations and committees.
Herasimenia is one of several national Olympic medalists to sign the list, including decathlete Andrey Kravchenko, gymnast Natalia Leshchik and freestyle skier Anna Guskova.
Herasimenia, 34, was a double silver medalist at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, placing second to Ranomi Kromowidjojo in both the women’s 50 and 100 freestyle, and then added a bronze in Rio in the 50.
Other swimmers and swim coaches to sign the letter include Anton Latkin, Elena Klimova, Pavel Sitenkov, Pavel Chaikov and Zakhar Zakrevsky. Among those not named on the list is the country’s highest-profile active swimmer, Ilya Shymanovich, who was 5th at last summers’ World Championships in the 50 breaststroke.