We kindly request your assistance in sending a letter of support to Ivan Strashkevich, a conscientious objector from Belarus. Currently, Ivan is facing the prospect of a long prison sentence in Belarus for his support of the Belarusian protest movement in 2020, including for his interview against the violent actions of the security forces.

Ivan Strashkevich, a Belarusian born on September 1, 1993, is an ethnic Lithuanian who previously served as a border guard in Belarus. However, disillusioned with the military, he made the decision to refuse further service and pursue a peaceful life. Ivan did not want to be associated with the armed forces, as they represent violence, hatred, and evil. He realized that he did not want to be a part of the machinery of violence and oppression. Ivan had to fight to leave the military.

In early 2019, he left for Poland and then moved to Lithuania on a work visa. This decision was influenced by Ivan’s mother, who is Lithuanian and was born and raised in Lithuania. Additionally, Ivan has other relatives in Lithuania. Ivan chose to move to Lithuania because it’s his mother’s homeland.

In 2021, Ivan Strashkevich was shocked by the cruelty with which Lukashenko deceived and organized the flow of migrants from the East, some of whom died at the border. Ivan even appeared in a documentary film, protesting against such mistreatment of people.

When the war broke out, two of his close friends went to Ukraine to participate in the war as part of the Belarusian Regiment named after Kastus Kalinovsky. Both of them have already died. Ivan didn’t go because he no longer wanted to associate his life with the army and war, but he was shocked to lose his friends whom he had known for many years. It was a tremendous personal loss for him, further solidifying his conviction that he should not join the army again.

On June 5, 2023, Lithuanian migration authorities refused to extend his work visa based on his previous military service, despite his active anti-war and anti-regime activism. They also imposed a 60-month ban on his entry into the European Union and Lithuania.

On June 6, 2023, Ivan applied for political asylum and was scheduled for an interview on June 14, 2023. However, five hours after the interview on June 14, 2023, the immigration authorities detained him and forcibly transported him to a refugee camp, where on June 16, the court decided to keep him in detention for one month, until July 14, 2023.

Ivan found himself in a refugee camp in Pabrade. His laptop and phone were confiscated, and he is only allowed to use the phone for 30 minutes a day, and even that is not guaranteed. He is in a closed room with barred windows and has no opportunity to file an appeal because he doesn’t have a laptop, phone, or any means of communication with the outside world. The problem is that due to the situation with Lithuanian migration, he missed the deadlines for filing a complaint. His lawyer has now filed a motion to restore the deadlines.

He is being held in custody in a Lithuanian refugee camp, despite having a valid residence permit in Poland that has not been revoked. The entry ban to the European Union deprives him of the opportunity to seek political asylum in Poland under the Dublin Agreement, as he could have done if he hadn’t applied for a humanitarian visa in Lithuania.

Ivan Strashkevich managed to send a letter to “Our House” with a request for assistance, enclosing all the materials he had, asking us to represent his interests and fight for him.

We kindly request solidarity with Ivan Strashkevich, a Belarusian conscientious objector, and assistance in advocating for his urgent release!

The service in the border troops, influenced by militaristic propaganda and driven by the lack of social opportunities in a small town like Smorgon (where Ivan comes from), should not be used as grounds for entry bans to the EU, deportation to Belarus, denial of residence permits, or revocation of refugee status.

We must strive for Belarusian men to have a chance to start a peaceful life without weapons and avoid being mobilized into the Belarusian army for participation in Vladimir Putin’s military campaign in Ukraine. We must and want to send a clear and understandable signal to young men in Belarus to lay down their arms and stand on the side of the Belarusian people, who aspire to live a peaceful life free from war and violence.

At present, the actions of Lithuanian migration authorities are actually reinforcing the understanding among Belarusian men that they must not attempt to seek refuge from the army and war in European Union countries. You will still end up in prison, and there is a risk of being forcibly returned to Lukashenko, subjected to torture and threats of murder.

It is important to understand that the torture and mistreatment experienced by former military personnel in Belarussian prisons are often more severe than those faced by ordinary protesters. This is because the security forces consider former soldiers as traitors and subject them to intensified abuse and torment within the prison system.

We kindly urge you to send a letter of support to the Lithuanian Migration Department at [email protected], with CC to the International Center for Civil Initiatives “Our House” at [email protected] with the label “Ivan Strashkevich case, gim 1993-09-01, urgent realize”.

Your support would be greatly appreciated.

Olga Karach