Exiled Belarus opposition leader condemns husband’s jail sentence 

Exiled Belarus opposition leader condemns husband’s jail sentence 

The exiled Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya says she will not cry over her husband Sergei Tikhanovsky’s 18-year jail term in a “maximum security colony”.

The former school teacher vowed to increase her efforts to persuade the European Union to impose more pressure on Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko. He has ruled Belarus since 1994 and is Europe’s longest-serving president.

Tikhanovsky, 42, a popular YouTube blogger, compared Lukashenko to a cockroach before his arrest last year. 

The Viasna human rights organisation says Belarus holds around 920 political prisoners and torture survivors have called on foreign governments and the United Nations to take action against the Minsk regime.

Tikhanovskaya told AFP she would not be panicked by the jail term. “We don’t have time to cry, we don’t have time to think about it too much,” she said.

After Tikhanovsky was detained in May last year ahead of the August presidential election, Svetlana ran in his place. Despite having no political experience, she proved a formidable opponent and grew in popularity across Belarus where voters had lost patience with Lukashenko’s erratic rule.

Lukashenko announced he had won with 80 per cent of the vote, sparking large-scale protests for weeks while Tikhanovskaya claimed victory. The EU refused to recognise the result and imposed sanctions on Belarus in October last year.

Five other defendants were convicted in the closed court after a 173-day trial.

The Belarus state media said Tikhanovsky was jailed for organising riots, inciting social hatred and on other charges.

Tikhanovskaya is in Brussels to urge the EU to extend sanctions on Lukashenko ahead of the bloc’s summit on Thursday.

She said Tikhanovsky’s maximum possible sentence in a closed court proved he is seen as a personal enemy for Lukashenko.

“Even the sight of those wonderful people can be an inspiration,” she told the media. 

Lukashenko recently admitted to the BBC that “people were beaten in the Okrestina detention centre” amid the post-election protests. 

The dictator said he has no plans to hold talks with the opposition, which is now based in exile in neighbouring Lithuania.

“As soon as [Russian President Vladimir] Putin sits down for talks with [Russian opposition leader] Alexei Navalny then I will instantly meet Svetlana Tikhanovskaya for talks… Putin will never get around the negotiating table with him,” he told the broadcaster.

 

The Belarusian protests have now been crushed. Picture credit: Pexels  

 

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