Belarus opposition leader Tikhanovskaya vows to 'stand till the end'
Belarusian authorities continue to put pressure on protesters to arrest strikers’ leaders. The EU is calling for an end to violence against demonstrators and repression of the opposition. Belarusian opposition candidate Tikhanovskaya called on her supporters to step up strikes in factories across the country to push for new elections.
Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has vowed to “stand till the end” in protests over disputed elections and subsequent violence, in an interview with BBC.
Belarusian authorities continue to pressure protesters who consider Alexander Lukashenko’s victory in the recent presidential election to be falsified and demand his resignation. Yevgeny Bochvalov, who organized a factory worker strike at a Minsk car plant, was detained today, the AP agency reported. The European Union has called on Belarus to halt criminal proceedings against the coordination council set up by the opposition in the interests of a smooth transfer of power.
According to Reuters, two leading members of the coordination council were questioned today on suspicion that the council was trying to “seize power” from President Alexander Lukashenko. Dozens of supporters escorted Maksim Znak and Sjarhey Dylevski to the interrogation as close as police barricades allowed.
The character, who is a lawyer, then stated that it was a “productive interview” and that he saw no reason for his arrest. “We have given them an explanation, and we will continue to work,” he said.
Even the often harsh police interventions did not intimidate the protesters, and opposition to Lukashenko’s government spread in the form of strikes to large state factories, which had long been considered the main stronghold of Lukashenko’s support.
The European Union, which rejected Lukashenko’s re-election, called on the Belarusian leadership to engage in dialogue with the opposition. “We expect the Belarussian authorities to stop the prosecution and instead start a dialogue to find a peaceful solution to the current crisis,” said Nabila Massrali, the EU’s foreign and security policy spokeswoman.
European Council President Charles Michel added that the EU’s goal was to stop violence against Belarusian protesters and other citizens and ensure that the former Soviet republic did not slip into economic or military chaos.
Belarus is a close ally of Moscow, and the current crisis is a test for the Kremlin, which must decide whether to hold Lukashenko or try to plan to hand over power to another leader, Reuters reported. However, tensions in Belarus are also a problem for Western countries. Belarus borders Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia, which are NATO’s borders.
However, European officials are trying to prevent a repeat of the riots that engulfed Ukraine six years ago. During them, a popular uprising overthrew the pro-Russian leader, triggering Moscow’s military intervention and the beginning of the bloodiest current conflict in Europe.
“Belarus is not Ukraine. Local people are not seeking closer relations with the EU,” an EU official who did not want to be named told Reuters. He said the Union was trying to encourage the Belarussian authorities to negotiate with the opposition, while “not changing Belarus’ geopolitical balance between the EU and Russia.”
Tikhanovskaya calls for strikes in factories
Opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya called on her supporters today in a new video to step up strikes in factories across the country to push for a new presidential election. Hours later, she held a press conference in Vilnius, stressing that the Belarusian people wanted a new vote that would be free and fair. She added that she hoped that the Belarusian leadership would listen to the call. “The Belarusian people will never accept the current leadership,” she told him that she intended to return to her homeland as soon as they felt safe enough.
A few days ago, Tikhanovskaya took refuge in Lithuania under pressure from the Belarusian authorities and out of concern for her safety.
Asked about the sanctions against the Belarusian regime being negotiated by the European Union, she said that all countries should respect Belarusian sovereignty. She added that Russia did not try to connect with her and her team. Russia has repeatedly warned the West not to interfere in the situation in Belarus.
Belarus is facing its biggest political crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Tens of thousands of protesters called daily for the resignation of President Alexander Lukashenko, whose alleged re-election in the August 9 election was falsified and invalid. They consider Tikhanovskaya to be the real winner of the election, according to official results, she won 10.1 percent of the vote. And Lukashenko won 80.1 percent of the vote, according to the Central Election Commission.