Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya revealed she’s meeting with US diplomat Stephen Biegun to discuss the disputed election against President Alexander Lukashenko. She has also said Lukashenko “will have to leave.”
Tikhanovskaya’s meeting with US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun will take place in Lithuania on Monday and focus on the current crisis in Belarus caused by the controversial presidential election, her team told Reuters on Saturday, during an online interview the opposition figure was giving to the news agency.
“During the campaign, I didn’t see myself as a politician, but I pushed myself forward,” she told Reuters from Lithuania, where she and her family fled after an alleged attempt on her life that was uncovered by the Belarusian authorities. “I don’t see myself in politics. I am not a politician.”
Tikhanovskaya, who Minsk election officials say scored just over 10 percent in the August 9 poll, says she sees change coming in Belarus, and that it will force President Lukashenko to leave his position. The opposition says the vote has been rigged, and mass protests against Lukashenko continue in Belarus, with demonstrators demanding a new “free and fair” election. “I’m sure that sooner or later he will have to leave,” Tikhanovskaya said.
Tikhanovskaya has been sharing videos on social media in support of the ongoing protests, and says she has been in contact with officials from countries that include the US, Canada, Germany, Britain, Poland, and more. “I asked everybody to respect the independence of our country, the sovereignty of our country,” she said.
Western nations, including the US and member states of the EU, have publicly refused to recognize the results of the Belarusian elections as legitimate, but stopped short of proclaiming Tikhanovskaya the winner. Instead, they want a new election – a demand Lukashenko has rejected, saying he would offer the opposition a recount, but won’t give in to outside pressure.
The embattled president says the anti-government protests are being directed from abroad, particularly from Lithuania and Poland, and has claimed there’s a NATO buildup accompanying the “regime change” plot. On Saturday, he ramped up this rhetoric, saying Belarusian forces will “react without warning” to any attempt at border infiltration.
Following a tough police response to the post-election protests across Belarus, the show of public support for Lukashenko from even the nation’s closest ally, Russia, has been muted, although President Vladimir Putin did formally congratulate him for another term in office. Lukashenko told RT on Saturday that Putin “agrees” with him that the ongoing unrest in Belarus is a “trampoline” to a foreign-backed plot targeting Russia.
The Belarusian leader has publicly declared he has Russia’s full backing – the two nations are both members of the Union State and the Collective Security Treaty Organization – but the Kremlin has clarified that any military help is limited to cases of foreign invasion, and no troops have been sent to Belarus in support. Moscow added that any outside interference in the country would be “unacceptable,” while adding Belarus has been coping with the situation just fine on its own.
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