**Push comes following departure of Ambassador Fisher & amid Lukashenka’s continued crackdown on human rights**
(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chair of the SFRC Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation, and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) led a bipartisan letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken advocating for the preservation of the role of U.S. Special Envoy to Belarus and asking the State Department to work with the Biden administration to expeditiously fill the position. In the letter, the Senators thanked Ambassador Fisher for spotlighting Lukashenka’s horrendous human rights abuses and building a strong foundation for a democratic future for Belarus during her tenure. They noted that given Fisher's recent departure, a new Special Envoy is needed to continue advancing the United States’ diplomatic engagement with Belarus.
The letter was also signed by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
“We write to express our continued support for the position of U.S. Special Envoy to Belarus, which is vital to promoting democracy and freedom in Belarus,” wrote the Senators. “As Mr. Lukashenka tightens his authoritarian grip, the United States must remain a committed partner for all those pursuing a democratic future for Belarus. Ambassador Fisher provided critical support to the pro-democracy movement in Belarus and was a strong advocate for its democratic aspirations. She kept the spotlight on Lukashenka’s horrendous human rights abuses and worked with Senators to establish the Free Belarus Caucus, which continues to marshal bipartisan support for the Belarussian people.”
They continued: “On June 9, 2022, Ambassador Fisher announced her departure from the role of U.S. Special Envoy to Belarus. We wish to thank the Government of Lithuania and the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius for their partnership in America’s efforts to support the Belarusian people, and we congratulate Ambassador Fisher on her tour of duty. Her role of Special Envoy cannot be left vacant. As Ambassador Fisher demonstrated, this role played a critical role in keeping much- needed focus on Belarus, and the Administration needs to ensure this continues.”
Full text of the letter is available here.
Shaheen leads efforts in support of pro-democracy movements and has spearheaded action to combat Russian aggression. Last year, Shaheen launched the bipartisan Free Belarus Caucus with Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) following the Senators’ meeting with Belarusian opposition leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. Last June, Senator Shaheen led a bipartisan delegation to Eastern Europe, which included stops in Ukraine as well as Lithuania, where she met with Ms. Tsikhanouskaya to discuss the Lukashenka regime’s increasing human rights abuses against political opposition. Shaheen previously questioned Tsikhanouskaya during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on U.S. policy in Belarus. Last year, Senator Shaheen penned an op-ed in USA Today on why the West must come together to address the political situation in Belarus. In February, Shaheen joined a congressional delegation visit to Poland to discuss Russian aggression against Ukraine and met with U.S. Special Envoy for Belarus, Ambassador Julie Fisher, and members from the Belarusian pro-democracy movement. Shaheen recently led a congressional delegation visit to the NATO Summit in Madrid with Senator Tillis (R-NC) after previously stopping in Finland and Sweden to meet with heads of state and partake in other important bilateral meetings. Last month, Shaheen, Durbin and Tillis introduced a bipartisan resolution recognizing political repression in Belarus.