The eastern European country of Belarus is wracked by strikes and protests.
That follows last week’s presidential election the opposition and international observers say was rigged, and then the subsequent crackdown by authorities.
Few countries are watching all of this closer than neighboring Lithuania. And few public figures are playing a bigger role than its Foreign Minister Linus Linkevicius.
With his country’s history of breaking free from then-Soviet bonds, Linkevicius marvelled at the outpouring of people against what’s seen as an oppressive government. “They deserve a better life,” he told Fox News via Zoom, “they deserve a normal democratic environment.”
He reflected on the embattled Belarusian president and dictator Alexander Lukashenko. “He should understand that something is changing,“ Linkevicius said, “He’s being met with anger, open anger, he should be shocked, this can’t be ignored.”
The Foreign Minister made news this week when he branded any possible Russian military support for Belarus as an “invasion.”
He stands by that assertion.
WHO IS BELARUS PRESIDENT ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO, ‘EUROPE’S LAST DICTATOR’?
“Since it’s publicly discussed I cannot say it’s not possible,” he said, “so we should take that into account at least, and also send a very clear message, that it’s not tolerable to do that.”
As Belarus conducts its own military exercises near its borders, the Lithuanian foreign minister seemed to take some measure of comfort in its NATO membership. “We very much value the presence [of] allied troops on our soil, in part Americans,” he said. “Being a member of this ‘club,’ the strongest military alliance, feels much better than those who are not.”
Lithuania is currently refuge to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who took up the mantle of opposition leader from her imprisoned husband. She was forced to leave Belarus following the election the government claims she lost.
BELARUS PRESIDENT HECKLED BY FACTORY WORKERS, SAYS THERE WILL BE NO NEW ELECTION ‘UNTIL YOU KILL ME’
“She has enormous bravery, resolution and responsibility for her country,” Linkevicius remarked, “she really deserves to be respected.”
With European Union leaders set to meet online Wednesday to discuss what measures to take regarding Belarus, the Foreign Minister is looking to Washington for support, “We would expect now some decisions, sanctions, pressure,” he said, “The U.S. was always a voice of democracy and freedom.”
When asked why Americans, dealing with so many issues right now, should concern themselves with the plight of Belarus, his reply was simple and straightforward: “We’re talking about universal values… they are challenged by dictatorship”
CLICK HERE FOR THE FOX NEWS APP
We concluded our virtual chat with Foreign Minister Linkevicius by asking him if he was hopeful about the situation in Belarus. “Usually I’m hopeful,” he replied with a grin, “…that’s one of my shortcomings.”
A lot of people in Belarus and elsewhere are hoping he’s right.