The program is designed to help people who are actively opposing the regimes of Russian President Putin and Belarusian President Lukashenko. Credit: Freepik.

Prague, October 3 (CTK) – The Czech Republic has granted hundreds of visas to opponents of the Belarusian and Russian regimes, including human rights activists, since the launch of its Civil Society program last year, Foreign Ministry spokesman Daniel Drake told CTK today.

The Civil Society program for independent journalists, academics or others facing persecution in their home country was launched by the ministry last May, designed to help people who are actively opposing the regimes of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

“They will be the most prominent representatives of civil society, such as independent journalists and academics,” Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky (Pirates) said last year. “It is in our interest that they can continue their activities against these regimes. We will create the right conditions for them to do so in Prague.” 

In its current response, the Foreign Ministry said several hundred visas have been issued for Russians and Belarusians combined, though the exact number cannot be confirmed for security reasons.

“The Czech Republic issues visas to opponents of the Belarusian regime and their direct relatives. These are both Schengen visas and long-term visas, which are a significant part of the applications processed under the Civil Society Programme,” Drake said.

The Ministry cooperates with NGOs and entities operating in Belarus in the issuance and processing of visa applications. “We process applications in a special mode, also because it is very difficult to identify who is among the human rights activists (we cannot be sure in all cases),” the spokesman noted.

The office thus has to evaluate applications carefully and individually, which is why it is not possible to start accepting applications from all students in general, for example. “However, in the case of students from Belarus, we do accommodate those who are participants in scholarship programs of the Czech government, the Ministry of Education or the European Union, and who can apply for long-term residence,” Drake added.

The government decided shortly after last year’s Russian attack on Ukraine to stop issuing visas to Russian, and later also Belarusian citizens, excluding humanitarian cases. The regulation is valid until the end of March 2024.

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