Congressman Sires’ Statement on Belarusian Opposition Suppression and Putin’s Electoral Interference
(Washington, D.C.) – Congressman Albio Sires (D-NJ) released the following statement after reports that Belarusian opposition leader, Maria Kolesnikova, has gone missing after challenging President Alexander Lukashenko and protests following the election. Lukashenko is a longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has been trying to crush protests that arose after the August election in which there have been serious accusations of vote-rigging in favor of the incumbent.
“Reports of the disappearance of opposition leaders in Belarus are highly disturbing and part of a pattern of suppression by Russia and leaders supported by Putin. In numerous nations, Putin has repeatedly used unsavory, illegal, and violent means to influence electoral results in favor of candidates he supports. In France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Poland, Hungary, Finland, the United States and more, Putin has used a combination of financial patronage, cyberattacks, and disinformation campaigns to erode trust in democratic institution and create a false narrative to confuse and sway voters. He backed an unsuccessful coup in Montenegro and has consistently been militarily aggressive towards neighbors in the region. Putin does all this while suppressing democratic opposition in his own country, with critics and opponents being jailed and poisoned. It is clear to me that Lukashenko has learned from his longtime ally and is acting with impunity, know that he will have the backing of Putin.
Putin, and his like-minded strongman allies, will continue to interfere in elections and will grow bolder with their tactics because there have been no serious consequences. We know that Putin interfered in the 2016 election to ensure Donald Trump would win and efforts to strengthen our electoral integrity have been blocked. I strongly believe, as we approach the 2020 election, Putin will ramp up his efforts to destabilize trust in our electoral system and will do everything in his power to prevent his chosen candidate from losing to Vice President Joe Biden. As he continues to escalate his tactics, and President Trump is already working to delegitimize future election results and has incited unrest in the past, I am concerned for the safety of the Biden Harris ticket.”