Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya met with U.S. President Joe Biden Wednesday at the White House to discuss democracy and human rights in the former Soviet republic.
In a post meeting tweet, Biden said "I was honored to meet with @Tsihanouskaya at the White House this morning. The United States stands with the people of Belarus in their quest for democracy and universal human rights."
Tsikhanouskaya called the meeting “very warm” and said she felt the U.S. stands with Belarus.
“We didn’t spend much time together, about 15 minutes, but it was a very warm meeting,” she told VOA’s Russian service. “I saw a man who is not indifferent to what’s going on in Belarus. I conveyed to [the president] our message: What’s happening in Belarus is not a geopolitical struggle, it is our fight against violence, against lawlessness. [I told him] that we have the same set of values. And I am leaving the White House with the assurance that the United States will stand with the Belarusian people now and after the new elections.”
“I am leaving with the assurance that everything we discussed with the advisors of Mr. Biden, his representatives, will be followed up on,” she added.
Belarus has been experiencing political turmoil since President Alexander Lukashenko was re-elected in what many western countries called a rigged election last August.
Tsikhanouskaya was the main challenger to Lukashenko in the election. She fled the country after the election as Lukashenko’s government cracked down on protests.
Tsihanouskaya has called for the U.S. to take stronger action against the Lukashenko government. Recently, she has called for the U.S. to sanction the country’s potash, wood and steel sectors.
“Sanctions is not silver bullet, but they can help to stop violence in Belarus and to make representatives of the regime to start dialogue with civil society,” Tsikhanouskaya told VOA earlier this month.
In the same interview, she said she asked that the United States provide more support for civil society groups in Belarus, and that it is up to democratic countries to “support those who are fighting now.”
During her time in Washington, she also met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.
VOA’s Russian service contributed to this report, which includes information from Reuters.