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Belarus Opposition Leader Urges US Pressure on Lukashenko

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken greets Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya at the State Department in Washington, July 19, 2021, in a photo posted by Tsikhanouskaya on her Twitter (@Tsihanouskaya).

Belarus’ main opposition leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, is calling on the United States to put more pressure on President Alexander Lukashenko’s government.

Tsikhanouskaya took her appeal directly to Biden administration officials on Monday as she met in Washington with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland and others.

“I thanked him for supporting Belarusian democratic aspirations. I called on the United States to strengthen help for our civil society, economically & politically pressure the regime, & appeal to Russia to play a constructive role in the crisis resolution,” Tsikhanouskaya tweeted after the talks.

She said the discussion also included ways to support media freedom in Belarus after government crackdowns against journalists.

Tsikhanouskaya was the main challenger to Lukashenko in an August 2020 election that the opposition and many Western governments consider rigged. She fled the country after the election as Lukashenko’s government cracked down on protests.

State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters, “They discussed the ongoing repression, the crackdown by the Lukashenko regime, and the steps that we have said and much of the international community has said that the Lukashenko regime must take.”

Blinken tweeted that the group discussed a path to ending the crisis in Belarus, which includes “release of all political prisoners, inclusive dialogue, and new elections.”

Some information for this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.