2021 already is and will be year of Belarusians: Tsikhanouskaya

Asked whether the current year was hers or Alexander Lukashenko’s, the exiled opposition leader and former presidential hopeful Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya told commercial Radio Zet that “2021 already is and will be the year of Belarusians. “

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In her Thursday interview, Ms Tsikhanouskaya recalled that the goal of the Belarusian opposition is to compel Mr Lukashenko to step down as the country’s president. This could be done, she argued, only by putting him under pressure from international organisations.

The opposition leader assured that everyone would like to see the opposition succeed by following a peaceful way. “We do not want any more casualties. I think we have suffered enough. We want to solve this issue peacefully,” she stressed.

As she put it, she was already convinced that the ones who had committed serious crimes against their compatriots must be sentenced before legitimate courts. According to Ms Tsikhanouskaya, Mr Lukashenko needs to fear not her but the Belarusians who demand new elections and putting an end to violence. As she claimed, the protests would never end, the will to fight would not vanish and the Belarusians were ready for more marches, in spite of the regime’s violence.

She recalled that she has been calling on the Belarusian authorities for talks, albeit not appealing to Mr Lukashenko, as she deemed him unready for them. Nevertheless, she claimed that there were people in the administration who wanted a new life for their children.

It has been ten months since she last saw her husband, she recalled, and the only way to contact him has been through his attorneys. “In Belarus, no one, even the closest family, can visit and call inmates,” she stressed.

She reassured that her husband and all the other prisoners of regime in Minsk knew that their freedom depended on those oppositionists who remained free and were determined to fight for all Belarusians.

“All political prisoners should be freed, including Poles,” she said, sharing her opinion that by imprisoning people, including Poles, the ruling regime wanted not only to intimidate people but also to enable negotiation leverage to have the sanctions eased, just as it had done in previous years when it had exchanged political prisoners for lesser sanctions and other privileges.

“Such a scenario should not be repeated,” she said.

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Ms Tsikhanouskaya stressed that Poles had shown that they have been true friends for Belarusians. “We are grateful to you for all the moves that Poland made following the rigged [Belarusian] elections,” she told Radio Zet and named examples of such actions, namely, the sanctions imposed on Minsk, joining EU sanctions, the active support provided to the Belarusian opposition broadcaster Belsat, the launching of a new scholarship programme for Belarusian students who left Belarus, the support for Belarusian Houses and centres of Belarusian solidarity, the provision of sanctuary and support to pro-opposition activists who had to flee the country, and the simplification of the immigration procedures for Belarusian citizens. In her opinion, the sanctions imposed on Belarusian organisations and companies linked to Alexander Lukashenko should be broader and the international community should know how to tackle the praxes of by-passing the existing sanctions.