Connecticut U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy made it in the airport in time Tuesday - not to catch a plane, but to push for action against tyranny abroad.
The airport in question is in Vilnius, Lithuania.
There, Murphy and two other senators joined an exiled Belarussian opposition leader, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, for a press conference to call attention to human rights abuses being committed by the government of Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko. Tsikhanouskaya is widely believed to have won an election against Lukashenko; she fled the country for her life after he responded by declaring victory anyway and launching a crackdown criminalizing dissent.
Tuesday's airport press conference came amid ongoing street protests in Belarus and nine days after Lukashenko dispatched a fighter jet to intercept a commercial airliner in order to arrest an opposition journalist.
Accompanying Murphy on the visit were fellow Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Rob Portman. (Watch their plane land without incident in the above video.)
Murphy, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called for the U.S. in concert with European allies to enact sanctions on Belarus to push for free elections and to signal that " the democratic community of the world led by the United States and Europe are not going to let a brutal dictatorship get away with this kind of persecution of political opponents."
Murphy's full remarks follow:
Thank you very much. My name is Chris Murphy, I have the honor of representing Connecticut in the United States Senate. I am also a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Let me first reiterate our deep gratitude to our hosts and Ms. Tsikhanouskaya’s hosts. The Lithuanian government has been such important partners to U.S. for the entirety of their country’s existence. And this is a moment where it’s important for the United States to redouble our efforts to link our two countries’ security narratives together, given the efforts of the Lithuanian government to make sure that Svyatlana and literally thousands of those that are in opposition helping to organize against Lukashenka are given a place to do so.
So I want to thank you for what you have done for your country, for your people, and for the world. I can’t imagine how difficult this is for you and for your family and for those who stand with you. But the impact of what you have done, the impact of a world watching tens of thousands of Belarusians coming down to the square week after week, coming out onto the streets in droves. It has given courage to multitudes of democratic movements throughout the world.
What has happened here, and the courage that you have shown over the course of the last year-it will ultimately lead to a democratic and free Belarus. But it will also, and is as we speak, providing inspiration to so many other democratic movements around the world.
What the world saw last weekend is what people in Belarus are experiencing every single day. The tactic was brazen, something the world had never seen before—a plane being taken out of the sky in order to detain one individual. But that was not foreign to those in Belarus who have been taken off the streets on a weekly basis, who have been picked up simply for providing coverage of protests, for simply accessing information about the opposition on their phone. The world saw an extraordinary act, but that kind of action is happening every day on the ground floor of Belarus.
I agree with Senator Portman, Senator Shaheen [that] now is the time for the United States to act in concert with our European allies. Now is the moment for us to implement significant sanctions that will one, have an impact on the political strength the government, bring them to the table to get back on the schedule [for] elections this year, but also to send a message to the world that the democratic community of the world led by the United States and Europe are not going to let a brutal dictatorship get away with this kind of persecution of political opponents.
So we are deeply grateful for the friendship that Lithuania has shown us and shown Svyatlana and her team. We are deeply grateful to you for meeting with us today. We are going to bring back your message to our colleagues in the United States Senate. We are here as a bipartisan delegation in our support for Belarus and for your efforts. We’ll continue to reach out across the aisle in the United States Senate, United States House of Representatives. Thanks for taking the time for us today."