Foreign

Belarus Election: Exiled Leader Calls Weekend of ‘Peaceful Rallies’

Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has called for peaceful rallies across the country after she was forced to leave for Lithuania in the wake of a disputed election.

“Don’t stay on the sidelines,” she said, proposing a broad council to work on the transfer of power.

Alexander Lukashenko has ruled Belarus since 1994 but Sunday’s presidential vote was condemned by the EU and US.

Thousands of Belarusians have been protesting, urging Lukashenko to quit.

Some 6,700 people were arrested in the wake of the election, and many have spoken of torture at the hands of the security services.

Accounts have emerged since authorities began releasing detainees, including from the notorious Okrestina detention centre in Minsk, and Amnesty International said detainees’ stories suggested “widespread torture”.

Ms Tikhanovskaya was held for seven hours herself on Monday night, when she went to register a complaint about the election, before she was forced into exile.

As protests went into a sixth day and walkouts from state factories grew, EU foreign ministers considered imposing new sanctions on Belarus during an emergency meeting on Friday.

Neighbouring Poland promised to loosen visa restrictions to help support civil society.

What is opposition leader proposing?

Ms Tikhanovskaya, who arrived in Lithuania on Tuesday, said in her video message that Belarus authorities should stop violence and “engage in dialogue” and her supporters should sign an online petition calling for a vote recount.

In a separate message she praised Belarusians for showing “we are a majority and this country belongs to us, to the nation rather than one man”. She then called for:

  • a co-ordinating council made up of “civil society activists, respected Belarusians and professionals” to secure a transfer of power
  • involvement from personnel from industrial companies, trade unions and other civil society organisations
  • the international community and European states would help organise dialogue with Belarus authorities
  • authorities should free all detainees, remove riot police and troops from the streets and prosecute those who ordered violence.

Ms Tikhanovskaya, 37, only entered the presidential race after her husband was arrested and blocked from registering for the vote. Her statements on Friday were a far cry from her last message on Tuesday, when she said she had left Belarus for the sake of her children and spoke of herself as “a weak woman”.

Culled from BBC

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