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Opposition Candidate Says Ready to Lead Belarus


Belarusian opposition politician Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya addresses the nation in an unknown location in Lithuania, in this still image taken from handout video released August 17, 2020.

Belarusian opposition politician Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya says she is ready to become the leader of the country following a disputed election that ignited massive protests after longtime President Alexander Lukashenko was declared the winner.

Lukashenko on Monday said he was open to the country holding a new presidential election, but only if an amended version of the constitution is passed.

The president flew by helicopter to a factory in the capital of Minsk to rally support, but he was heckled by workers who chanted, "Go away!"

His opponent in the election spoke in a video message released from Lithuania.

"We all want to leave this loop that we found ourselves in 26 years ago. I am ready to take on the responsibility and become the national leader in this period,” Tsikhanouskaya said.

“With the goal of calming the situation and entering into a normal period, freeing political prisoners, and in the shortest time creating the conditions and legislative base to organize new presidential elections. Real, honest and transparent elections, that will be unequivocally accepted by the international community."

Tsikhanouskaya also called on the Belarusian military to join the protesters.

Demonstrations continued Monday for a ninth day as more workers from state-controlled factories joined strikes to protest what they called “rigged” elections.

Lukashenko told factory workers Monday that the country would collapse if he steps down.

On Sunday, as many as 200,000 protesters marched in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, far outnumbering the crowd of Lukashenko supporters who also marched.

The protest march began near Victory Park in central Minsk and was the biggest demonstration in the history of the former Soviet republic.

The country's Central Election Commission said that after all ballots were counted in the August 9 election, Lukashenko took 80.23% of the votes and Tsikhanouskaya took 9.9%.

She entered the race after the arrest of her husband, blogger and would-be opposition candidate Siarhei Tsikhanousky.

Tsikhanouskaya said she would never accept the results before fleeing to Lithuania for what she said was her children’s safety.

Lukashenko took power after Belarus declared independence from the Soviet Union and has been president since 1994.

Lukashenko told military chiefs Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin offered "comprehensive help" to "ensure the security of Belarus."

The Kremlin said in a statement that both presidents agreed the "problems" in Belarus would be "resolved soon" and the countries' ties would strengthen.