Brussels (Brussels Morning) The Belarus opposition released a video last week, accusing President Alexander Lukashenko of having misappropriated EU funds designated as part of the bloc’s aid to the country, Deutsche Welle reported.
The video clip, initially released through the opposition Telegram channel Nexta, was subsequently shared on YouTube, where it racked up more than 5 million views in five days – an unprecedented number for content aimed at a country of 9.5 million people.
The initial response of EU officials has been to dismiss the claims made in the video. Spokeswoman for the Neighbourhood and Enlargement programme Ana Pisonero issued a statement saying the “media speculation” regarding Lukashenko’s use of EU funds was “completely unfounded and unsupported”.
The European Parliament showed more concern, though. Deputy chair of the Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee, Viola von Cramon, announced plans to investigate the allegations. “It cannot be permitted that EU funds are misappropriated in order to personally enrich Lukashenko,” von Cramon, a lawmaker for the German Greens, declared.
According to the Nexta video, Lukashenko used EU funds intended for environmental protection to build luxurious residential properties within nature reserves. Funds for the river Dzvina were allegedly used to renew the riverside promenade, raise water fountains and remodel the Victory Square in Vitebsk, although the video provides no concrete evidence.
More revelations promised
Evidence is also missing from several other similar claims. However, Nexta founder Sephan Putylo maintains the evidence is available, just that it has not been shared publicly in order to protect the sources. He says more revelations are to follow.
The EU has already cut most diplomatic ties to Lukashenko following the August 2020 presidential election. The EU declared the elections “neither free nor fair”, and refused to recognise their results, in effect not recognising Lukashenko as president.