The cultural manager Vitali Shkliarov was arrested during a visit to his home town of Gomel in Belarus on 29 July 2020. The reasons for his arrest in the run-up to the Belarusian presidential elections are not known at this time. The Members of the German Bundestag, Vice-President Claudia Roth, Manuel Sarrazin, spokesperson for Eastern European policy, and Erhard Grundl, spokesperson for cultural policy of the Bündnis 90/Die Grünen parliamentary group, have addressed an open letter to President Alexander Lukashenko. They strongly condemn the continuing wave of arrests and repression in the context of the presidential elections and urge the release of Vitali Shkliarov and all other political prisoners.
Vitali Shkliarov received his doctorate in Germany as a social scientist and political scientist, worked as a journalist and cultural manager and is a fellow of Harvard University. He is widely respected for his expertise on the culture and politics of Eastern Europe. Shkliarov had publicly advocated free and democratic elections in Belarus. His fears have been confirmed. The elections were accompanied by violence, intimidation and arrests of press representatives and members of the opposition. After the elections, protests against the obvious electoral fraud were suppressed with massive police violence. The opposition’s top candidate, Svitlana Tsikhanouskaya, who does not recognise the re-election of incumbent Lukashenko, had to leave the country.
Erhard Grundl has taken over the godparenthood of Vitali Shkliarov. He explains: “The arrest of Mr Shkliarov fills me with great concern. For years Vitali Shkliarov has been working for democracy, the rule of law, human and civil rights in Belarus. Since the beginning of the protests against the election fraud thousands of people have been arrested – because they have exercised their civil right to freedom of expression. Thoughts like the one Vitali Skliarov stands for cannot be eradicated by violence. They are universal and will prevail, thanks to the courageous men and women who are now taking to the streets. Vitali Shklirarov is with them in spirit. Freedom for Vitali Shkliarov!”