Statement by First Deputy Permanent Representative Dmitry Polyanskiy at an informal "Arria-formula" VTC meeting of UNSC members on the situation in Belarus
Upon the initiative of our Estonian friends we participate today at an event devoted to a country specific situation which is not on the agenda of Security Council. I want to note from the outset that it’s regrettable that our colleagues in Tallinn on the eve of leaving the Council still haven’t learned that Arria-formulas, being its informal gatherings, are supposed to be devoted to the issues which fall within the purview of responsibility of the Council.
Since we gathered here anyway we believe that it could be a good opportunity to raise the issues of concern in Baltic-Black sea region which we usually don’t discuss in the Security Council. I have to confess that the situation in this area has been extremely worrying for more than three decades already and old issues are unfortunately being overshadowed by new ones. But let’s start with a little quiz to find out how well do we know the countries in question.
Can you name me a country where 10% of the population (or almost 200 thousand persons) are being for 30 years deprived of citizenship and major political rights? This is Latvia, a home country for our today’s keynote speaker, Ms Ilze Brand Kehris, who was passionately teaching our Belarusian neighbors today how they should govern their country. From such a perspective, these lessons seem unconvincing, especially if we add to this picture blatant discrimination of Russian-speakers in this country in the field of education. Despite the fact that 88% of Russian speakers wish to continue education of their children in Russian, they are virtually deprived of such opportunity.
Do you think that I am exaggerating? Do you believe that Latvian society is friendly and inclusive for Russian-speakers who have lived there hundreds of years? I will give you only one recent example which will help you to understand the real scope of this problem. Just several days ago one Latvian MP Karina Sprude commenting in her Twitter on the information that the number of COVID-19 cases among Russian-speaking population in Latvia is much higher than among Latvian-speakers wondered why there are no advertisements or instructions on vaccination in Russian language in her country. She apparently believed that it would help to decrease the number of cases. And there came an answer from another public figure, a well-known activist and assistant of a member of Latvian Parliament Maris Micerevskis whose name is Selma Levrence: “the more Russians will die, the better it is for the Latvian language”. I will show you the screenshots.
This example of apparent hate speech has caused predictable indignation of Russian-speaking population in Latvia, but received absolutely no attention in European Union. We didn’t hear anything from Ms Brands Kehris who is ASG for human rights. And we are not surprised – it’s much easier to teach others how they should live than to do obvious homework at home.
One might say that Latvia is an outstanding disgraceful case in the Baltic-Black Sea region. But unfortunately facts don’t sustain this claim. Neighboring Estonia, the organizer of today’s event, carries out same policies towards 8% of its non-citizens population. The verbal attacks on Russian-speakers there are not less frequent than in Latvia and they persist for three decades already. They are not only verbal – dozens of Russian-speaking activists (who by the way are identifying themselves with Estonia and Latvia and not with Russia) are arrested, jailed and prosecuted only because they fight for their basic civil and political rights, for better future for their children in the country to which they historically belong and for their Russian national identity. No one would question their right to preserve it be it not in Latvia or Estonia.
And to make this picture even gloomier let’s not forget about flagrant war on media freedom that is being waged by Latvia, Estonia and their neighbor Lithuania for decades. The facts are so numerous that for time-saving reasons I will not give specific cases or statistics here, you will easily find them in a lot of documents, for instance in the recent report of the Foreign Ministry of Russia on human rights situation in the world. There are a lot of letters and appeals piling up in relevant European institutions on these cases. But I don’t think we will ever hear a reaction from them: our EU colleagues’ attention is focused only on Russia and as of recently on Belarus and they are ready to forgive everything to their fellow EU members. Needless to say that such a situation considerably devaluates any claim by the EU to be at the forefront of the struggle for human rights.
Unfortunately this complacency and obvious double standards have not only damaged EU image in the world but also already resulted in a metastasis in the same Baltic-Black sea region. I am having in mind Ukraine, aka Anti-Russia, since illegal Western-sponsored Maidan coup in 2014. The hate speech, persecution of Russian-speakers and consistent banning of Russian language which is native to at least 40% of its citizens has created an extremely explosive and divisive situation in this country, triggered the decision of Crimea to reunify with Russia and caused continuing civil war in its East which resulted in more than 13 thousand lives. There are dozens of examples of hate speech attributed to modern Ukrainian politicians in comparison to which the words of Selma Levrence would sound as a child’s game. But let me not promote them here out of respect to our Security Council colleagues, a simple internet relevant search will give you numerous results.
What also makes Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania common is their perverted attitude towards our recent history, namely making heroes of those who collaborated with Nazis and committed terrible atrocities against Jews, Poles, Ukrainians and Russians during the Second World War. This is not only contradicting obvious historical truth and the outcome of the Nuremberg Tribunal, but also antagonizing these societies pushing even further Russian-speakers for whom preservation of memory of those who died liberating USSR and Eastern Europe from fascist aggressors is sacred and non-negotiable. And not only Russian speakers protest against glorification of Nazi collaborators: I have here with me a copy of the book by Silvia Foti, the granddaughter of Lithuanian modern hero Jonas Noreiko, a war-time Lithuanian statesman who, as she found out, was perpetrator of the Holocaust in her country. She found the courage to speak out and tell the true story of her family. This is only one example but there are dozens more of those who have become heroes in Kiev, Tallinn, Vilnius and Riga having on their hands blood of hundreds of thousands of innocent victims. We must have courage to call spade a spade and tell the truth about them no matter how high they are placed in the pantheon of these countries. Like Silvia Foti did. It’s high time to follow her example.
And there is one more thing that unites Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Ukraine – it’s their role in promoting a failed color revolution in their neighboring state – Belarus. Let me also add Poland to this club which still has some colonial déjà vu when it comes to its former territories. They have been working on this project together with the US and the EU for many years, training protesters, investing money in them, creating sleeping cells, cultivating NGO’s and openly funding Belarusian opposition, harboring its leaders and calling these imposters elected leaders of Belarus. The EU’s Eastern Partnership which has already played subversive role in Ukraine, was one of the key channel for such efforts. The stakes were high and the money was considerable but Belarusians didn’t let themselves to be tricked, to a large extend thanks to a tragic example of Ukrainians who allowed extremists and ultranationalists to steal their country and govern it with Western money and under de-facto Western protectorate.
And that’s why we are sitting here today listening to the stories of our Baltic, Ukrainian and Western friends on how bad the Belarusian authorities are. Which maybe would be more credible if human rights and media freedom were not violated and even raped in their own countries. Colleagues, it’s hard to believe you given your own background, I am sorry if you don’t understand this. And your lectures to Belarusians or us on how to organize our societies will never be considered seriously before you end the shameful practice of new apartheid that is de-facto state ideology in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania!
To conclude I want to once again come back to the loathsome words by infamous Selma Levrence. I will show you the screenshot of her twitter page and you will see the hashtag of the Belarusian protest movement #ЖывеБеларусь on it. This is not a coincidence: people like Selma see no conflict in supporting protests in Belarus and wishing death to all Russian-speakers, and Russian as you might know is an official language of Belarus. Because people like her don’t want to help Belarusians, they just want their country.
Dear Baltic and Western colleagues, I propose to make Selma the symbol of your efforts to topple legitimate Belarusian authorities. I think she deserves this because she openly says what you are up to vis-à-vis your neighbors.