Congressional Briefing: Belarus’s Transition from Dictatorship to Democracy

Panelist Biographies

Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) – Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur proudly represents the people of Ohio’s Ninth Congressional District. She is currently the longest serving woman in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives and ranks among the most senior Members of the 117th Congress.  She serves as member of the House Appropriations Committee and a senior member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.  She currently co-chairs the Congressional Hungarian Caucus and the Ukraine Caucus.  Her full bio is available at

Valery Kavaleuski – Mr. Kavaleuski is the representative of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya on foreign affairs. He formulates foreign policy priorities, implements reached agreements, and develops new engagements on the path to new elections in Belarus. Valery’s professional background includes national diplomatic service (1998-2006) where he specialized in Belarus-US relations. Prior to this appointment Valery worked in the World Bank Group in Washington, DC, developing investment projects in Africa and Southeast Asia. He is a former Belarusian American Association representative in the Central and East European Coalition. He was also an international journalist at Voice of America.  Valery holds a Masters’ Degree from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service.

Jonathan Katz – Mr. Katz is director of Democracy Initiatives and a senior fellow with The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) based in the Washington, DC, office. Prior to joining GMF from 2014-17, Katz was the deputy assistant administrator in the Europe and Eurasia bureau at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).  He led USAID programs in Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Eastern and Central Europe, the Black Sea and Caucasus Regions, the Western Balkans, and regional programs that included Russia.  Prior to joining the State Department in 2010, Katz served as the staff director of the Europe Subcommittee of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. His full bio is available at

Vytis Jurkonis – Mr. Jurkonis is a project director at Freedom House and leads its Vilnius office. He lectures at the Institute of International Relations and Political Science of Vilnius University since 2006. He is primarily known as the expert of Belarus related issues, Eastern Partnership region, and Russia, as well as Lithuanian foreign policy, however his previous engagements also included fact-finding missions to and trainings for civil society activists and human rights defenders in Afghanistan, Cuba, Burma and Georgia.  Prior to joining Freedom House, Mr. Jurkonis led the Policy Analysis and Research Division at Vilnius based think-tank Eastern European Studies Centre and was a national researcher for European Foreign Policy Scorecard by the European Council on Foreign Relations. He also participated in the premier professional exchange visit within International Visitor Leadership Program by the U.S. State Department and holds an expert diploma of the Institute of Human Rights of the Law Faculty of the Complutense University. Vytis Jurkonis received “Lithuanian Diplomacy Star”, the highest decoration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania, in 2018 for promoting human rights in Central and Eastern Europe.

Michael Sawkiw – Mr. Sawkiw is a former President of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), the representative organization of the Ukrainian American community.  Since 1996, he has served as Director of the UCCA’s Washington, DC bureau – the Ukrainian National Information Service (UNIS), and remains in this post presently.  He has represented the UCCA on the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) for over 25 years.

Michael is also Chairman of the U.S. Committee for Ukrainian Holodomor-Genocide Awareness and was instrumental in the establishment of the Ukrainian Famine-Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial in Washington, DC (unveiled in November 2015).  He received a prestigious award from His Beatitude Patriarch Sviatoslav of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church for his efforts in memorializing the victims of the Ukrainian Holodomor. In August 2017, the President of Ukraine awarded the Yaroslav the Wise state medal for his advocacy work in Washington and the establishment of the Holodomor Memorial.  

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