Bratislava, Slovakia – The ambassador of Belarus to Slovakia, Igor Leshchenya, has voiced his support with the tens of thousands of protesters calling for President Alexander Lukashenko to step down, become the first high-ranking official to side with the unprecedented wave of public anger.
“I stand in solidarity with those who came out on the streets of Belarusian cities with peaceful marches so that their voice could be heard”, Minsk’s top envoy in Bratislava said in a video posted during the week-end. “The Belarusians have achieved this right through suffering”, he added.
The 52-year-old diplomat also expressed his shock at “stories of torture and beatings” of peaceful protesters at the hands of Belarusian state security forces.
Talking to Sky News reporters the day after the video was released, Leshchenya stood by his statement. “I expect a lot of difficulties, I have fears, I am a human being, but from the moral point of view it was a real relief”, adding that he expected to be ordered back to Minsk and to be fired from his post.
The Belarusian ambassador to Slovakia also argued that, while he believes a lot of his colleagues and other diplomats shared his position and were also in favour of holding new elections, most were too afraid to speak up publicly.
A career diplomat, Igor Leshchenya became Belarus’ youngest ambassador at the age of 30 when he opened his country’s embassy in Egypt. He also served as Belarus ambassador to Israel, before moving to Slovakia four years ago.
“I sincerely hope that the future of my country will be based on taking into account the positions of all sectors of society”, he noted, explaining that he felt compelled to express his views after witnessing the violent crackdown of state security forces against protesters calling for the resignation of long-time Belarusian authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko, widely accused of rigging the elections earlier this month.
At least two people have died amidst the ongoing wave of protests, hundreds more were injured and at least 7,000 thousands arrested, with mounting evidence of violence and torture at the hands of Belarusian law enforcement authorities.
Slovak Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok also reacted to the video, saying that “Slovak diplomacy has noticed the fundamental statement by the Belarusian ambassador to Slovakia. What he says is also confirmed by our assessment of the current situation in Belarus, which is so serious that a representative of Belarusian diplomacy also speaks publicly and critically about it”.
Some reports claim that Leshchenya already handed his resignation, but the information has yet to be confirmed by the Belarusian Foreign Ministry.