The Czech government has approved the creation of a fund to help Belarusians affected by the restrictions of President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime, Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek said on Monday.
The Czech Republic will set aside 10 million korunas (€383,600) for this purpose from this year’s budget of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The money will be used to help persecuted people, treat the injured, and support independent media.
“The priorities at the moment are, in particular, the support of independent media. There is a need to ensure that citizens in Belarus have access to independent information. It is generally a support for civil society,” Petříček explained.
“In practical specific areas, it is legal assistance to people who have lost their jobs because they have reported how elections have been manipulated, legal aid for journalists exposed to persecution, psychotherapeutic assistance to people who were arrested and, according to all testimonies, were subjected to torture by the local authorities, “said Petříček about the use of the money before a government meeting on the topic.
Czechia also intends to provide medical care for Belarusians in Czech hospitals.
“The government approved that the program Medevac, administered by the Ministry of the Interior, will be used to help the people of Belarus,” Petricek said after the government meeting.
He previously stated that the program could not be used since Belarus has not yet been among the countries for which the program was intended this year. There were nine such states, with only Greece and Ukraine approved of in Europe.
The Ministry of the Interior stated in a press release that the Medevac program will enable the provision of health care and rehabilitation for Belarusians injured in clashes with local security forces.
“The Ministry of the Interior will coordinate the selection of persons, cover the costs of admission to the country, accommodation and other possible costs related to the coronavirus pandemic, such as testing,” said Interior Minister Jan Hamáček.
His department will arrange transportation of Belarusians to the Czech Republic while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will issue visas.
According to Petříček, the Czech embassy in Minsk, together with Belarusian civil society organizations, should decide on the distribution of financial aid. Part of the assistance will be provided with the use of the Czech state authorities in cooperation with the embassy, part through non-governmental organizations in Belarus or organizations that provide independent reporting in the country.
Unrest in Belarus erupted after this month’s presidential election. Belarusian authorities declared a strong victory for Lukashenko, who has been at the helm of the country since 1994, but a large part of the population considered the election rigged and has begun to demonstrate against them.
People in the streets continue to demand Lukashenko’s departure despite the crackdown by security forces on protesters in recent days.
About 7,000 people have been detained and about 4,000 remain in prison. Detainees who have been released speak of violence and psychological torture in prisons. Several people died during the protests, and many Belarusians remain missing.
Title image: Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek of the Czech Republic speaks during a joint press conference at the end of the meeting of foreign ministers of the informal group ‘Vienna Five’ in Budapest, Hungary, Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (Szilard Koszticsak/MTI via AP)