Today I received Ms Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in Paris to assure her of France's support for the democratic aspirations of the people of Belarus and our commitment to the country's sovereignty and independence.
Our meeting took place in exceptional times. The complicity of Alexander Lukashenko's regime in Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in flagrant violation of international law and signed agreements, marks a new and very serious step in Mr Lukashenko's process of submission to Russia. Belarus and its people deserve better than to become the accomplices and vassals of a brutal regime that has chosen to bring war to the heart of Europe with no justification, contrary to our values of freedom and democracy.
Ms Tikhanovskaya presented the opposition's strategy with a view to the constitutional referendum which will take place in Belarus until Sunday, 27 February, without international observer missions and amid violent repression. The amendments proposed by the regime in Minsk in no way correspond to the expectations expressed by the Belarusian people in summer 2020.
Even more worryingly, this proposed constitutional revision runs the risk of beginning a regression for Belarus, as it includes the abolition of the principle of neutrality and of non-nuclear status in the Belarusian constitution. Belarus also says it is prepared to host Russian military forces on its territory in the long term. We and our partners will have to address the consequences of this situation in adapting NATO's defence posture.
This meeting was also an opportunity to commend the courage of Belarusian democratic forces and renew France's solidarity with political prisoners and their families. We have not forgotten them and continue to demand their immediate and unconditional release. Alongside our European Union partners, we are determined to bolster our support to Belarusian democratic forces, civil society, intellectuals, journalists and students who seek it to help them in their fight.
The profound commitment of Ms Tikhanovskaya and the Belarusian opposition to their country is remarkable and honourable, in light of Mr Lukashenko's renunciations.
I assured Ms Tikhanovskaya that France would continue to stand with the Belarusian people in their fight for freedom, as it stands with the Ukrainian people in the face of Russia's aggression.