PACE leaders have declared their strong solidarity with Russian and Belarusian political prisoners at a special event at the opening of the Assembly’s spring plenary session in Strasbourg.
PACE President Tiny Kox, joined by the leaders of the Assembly’s political groups, paid tribute to Russian opposition leader Vladimir Kara-Murza, sentenced last week to 25 years in prison, and to jailed Belarusian activists Ales Bialiatski and Maria Kalesnikava – all three of whom are past winners of the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize – as well as to the “hundreds of other brave people” jailed in both countries.
“You have friends from the 46 member states of the Council of Europe,” the President told Mr Kara-Murza’s wife Evgenia and Natallia Pinchuk, the wife of Ales Bialiatski, who were both present. “We are together with you in these extremely difficult times.” The families and children of prisoners were also victims of injustice, he pointed out.
Replying, Ms Kara-Murza began by expressing her “heartbreak, sadness and fury” at the many lives lost in Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, as well as the cities annihilated, the families torn apart, the unthinkable atrocities against civilians, and the Ukrainian children stolen from their parents.
“I am often lost for words – and yet words are my only weapon, my only means to make the world see, to make sure no-one turns away or decides that it’s time for ‘business as usual’ and starting to look for compromises – yet again – in dealing with a bully and a murderer.”
“My husband Vladimir rejects everything this government stands for,” she continued. “The things dictatorships of the world are most afraid of are the truth, and that inner freedom that makes people stand up to the worst monsters, that refusal to be intimidated, to be scared into silence. Time and again throughout history, dictators have underestimated that power of moral courage in the face of an all-powerful repressive state. That courage that, time and again, proves to be stronger than military might.”
She concluded: “As Vladimir would say, the night is darkest before the dawn. We will prevail, and Russia will be free, because we are Russians too – and we refuse to be scared.”