Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a Belarusian opposition figure, says the Belarussian people support Ukraine. He believes that Belarus’s fate is linked to the outcome of the war in Ukraine.
In an interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP), exiled Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said it was important to distinguish between the attitude of Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, a Moscow ally, and the attitude of the Belarussian people.
“Now we have to fight not only for the regime, not only for the release of our political prisoners, but also for the Ukrainians, because we understand that the fate of Belarus depends on the fate of Ukraine at the moment,” he said.
The President of Belarus, who launched a brutal crackdown on popular protest after his re-election in 2020, supports the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
But for Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who is considered by the West to be the real winner of the 2020 presidential election, “the people of Belarus do not support this war.”
“And Lukashenko dragged our country into this invasion of Ukraine, because he is repaying the Kremlin for the support it gave him in 2020,” he said.
In power for almost 30 years, Lukashenko has angered the international community in support of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“But our Belarusian people have formed an anti-war movement. Despite the months of repression in our country, our people dared to go to the rally,” said the 39-year-old.
Earlier, during a press conference hosted by the United Nations Accredited Journalists Association in Geneva, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said Belarusians were worried about a possible war on their territory.
He also claimed that they are paying a heavy price for the position of the strong man in Minsk, due to the imposition of international sanctions.
“They are treating us as attackers,” he said, at a time when the population is “fighting against the dictatorship.”
In its view, the international community – instead of denying visas to the average Belarusian citizen – should impose more sanctions on state-owned companies and banks that finance the Minsk regime.
According to a recent UN report, at least 37,000 people were arrested between March 2020 and May 2021 as part of a crackdown on protests that preceded and followed the August 2020 election, when Lucaceno secured a sixth term in office amid allegations of fraud.
Many of those arrested were abused and tortured during their detention. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said yesterday that 1,085 people remain in Belarusian prisons for political reasons.
According to the UNHCR, more than 900 people were arrested last month during protests against Minsk’s decision to grant Belarus nuclear status, a reform that would allow Russia to develop Russian nuclear weapons on its territory. The reform was approved in late February by a referendum by Belarusians.
“The conditions of detention of political prisoners in our country are clearly worse than the conditions of detainees of common criminal law,” said Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, whose husband, Sergei Tichanovsky, a Belarusian opposition figure.
“People are being systematically humiliated, physically and morally, they are deprived of medicines, medical care, hygiene products. They are being tortured,” he said.
Tikhanovskaya called on the war in Ukraine not to forget the horrific human rights situation in her country and said that people living in Vladimir Putin’s Russia now face a similar situation to Belarusians.
“We faced huge repression after the rigged 2020 elections. And Lukashenko managed to stay in power. He used all possible violence against the people and now the situation in Russia is similar,” he said.