“No way out” for Lukashenko: Belarusian opposition leader
There is “no way out” for Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko more than a year after disputed elections, the exiled opposition leader said on Friday, urging France to use its ties with Russia to increase the pressure on the authoritarian leader.
Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who, along with much of the international community, believes she was the real winner in last summer’s polls, told Agence France-Presse in an interview that the world powers and the Belarusian people must continue to pressure the regime for free and fair elections.
She said she was satisfied with her visit to France this week ending Saturday, saying there was “no disappointment” that there had been no meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron to follow up on a first meeting in Lithuania last year.
Tikhanovskaya, who met with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian earlier this week, said France and other powers should act as mediators to agree new elections which she said would remove Lukashenko from the to be able to.
“I am sure that we will be able to bring our country peacefully to new elections, but to make this possible we must be coherent in the fight and seize all the opportunities, fighting and resisting constantly,” a- she declared.
“The support of the international community, creating multiple points of pressure on the regime, will make the regime understand that there will be no way out of this situation and that it can only speak to the Belarusian people.”
She said that France was particularly important given that she has a working relationship with Russia. Analysts say Moscow’s support is crucial for Lukashenko’s grip on power.
“France has good relations with Russia and (…) can be a mediator in this process. France can find ways to communicate with countries which still support the regime.”
– “Avoid the dead end” –
While the sanctions agreed upon by the EU were working, she said, Lukashenko’s sole aim “is to stay in power and continue to harass the Belarusian people”.
“What we must avoid is the deadlock in Belarus, we need momentum.”
But she predicted: “The regime is sure to collapse. It is impossible to run a country where you are not respected.
Tikhanovskaya, who is now based in Lithuania, was forced to leave Belarus following elections where she became the surprise figurehead of the opposition after the disqualification and imprisonment of her blogger husband Sergei Tikhanovsky.
She cannot even speak to her imprisoned husband because “in Belarus parents cannot communicate with prisoners, only through a lawyer”.
She described her husband as an “extremely strong person” who “will never betray his values or sign a letter asking for mercy from Lukashenko”.
She applauded the hundreds of activists, journalists and politicians who rights groups say are being held as political prisoners in Belarus, such as protest leader Maria Kolesnikova who was sentenced to 11 years in prison earlier this month. .
“They inspire us even behind bars and motivate us not to give up,” Tikhanovskaya said.
But while Tikhanovskaya said she was sure she would one day return to Belarus, she made it clear that she had no intention of following the lead of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny who was immediately imprisoned on his return from Germany to Russia.
“It was his political decision and I fully understand it,” she said of Navalny.
“But in my situation, I would become the next political prisoner and I wouldn’t be able to do anything behind bars. I would ruin everything that has been built in the past year. No one would gain – and the regime would be happy. “
sjw / jh / har