“Ukrainians and Belarusians are close. I haven’t even thought of leaving the country. “, says Karina Potemkina, on a bench in a sunny park in Boutcha, on the outskirts of Kyiv. Refugee to Ukraine after fleeing political repression in her country in December 2021, the 31-year-old woman was one of many Belarusians who decided to stay despite the invasion beginning on February 24. After the withdrawal of the Russian armed forces from the Kyiv region in early April, she participated in the census of the corpses of this martyred city of Boutcha. She now volunteers to help resettle internally displaced people from the conflict.

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Karina Potemkina had been legally living in Ukraine since the end of 2021, but she did not apply for a residence permit before the war. The use of Belarusian territory by the Russian armed forces to launch the offensive on Kiev and send missiles to Ukrainian territory now forces him to leave Ukraine. In early July, after the young woman went to immigration services to get sesame, the authorities issued her a deportation stamp for July 15.

“Half of my friends are in jail”

From February 24 “Everyone with a Belarusian passport got suspicious in Ukraine”, complains Franak Viacorka, special adviser to Svetlana Tsikhanovskaïa, the main figure in the opposition to the Belarusian regime. While the frozen bank accounts of some exiles have been unlocked thanks to the work of the opponent’s office, Belarusians in the country are having a hard time obtaining legal documents. “We are talking about thousands of people, complains Franak Viacorka. Activists, human rights defenders, young people who lived in Ukraine after the 2020 repression and joined battalions of fighters to fight. I don’t know if you can find foreigners more dedicated to supporting Ukraine. “

Karina Potemkina is from Soligorsk, a mining town in central Belarus. After the fraudulent re-election of Alexander Lukashenko with over 80% of the votes, in August 2020 the woman was involved in the mass demonstrations that shook the country. The attempted revolution was quickly repressed. In her city, old acquaintances avoid him. “All the politicians I knew from my activities in an orphanage stopped talking to me. Nobody did anything to protect me. ” At the end of December, knowing she was wanted by the security services, she finally decided to go to Ukraine. “Half of my friends are in prison, most of them have been beaten”he says in a whisper.

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