GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya is in Switzerland this week to drum up international pressure on President Alexander Lukashenko to resign and negotiate a peaceful transfer of power. Lukashenko was reelected for a sixth term in office on August 9 in an election that was widely seen as fraudulent.
Tikhanovskaya said she will be pressing her case for greater support for her country in her meetings with the president of the Swiss Parliament and with officials of U.N. and private agencies involved in human rights issues.
She said conditions in Belarus continue to deteriorate. Currently, she notes Belarus is holding 207 political prisoners, more than 1,000 criminal cases are pending, and more than 55,000 people have been detained throughout the past months for protesting against the government.
She said people in jail are being subjected to torture, rape and other atrocities. She is calling for the release of all political prisoners and detainees and for perpetrators of crimes to be brought to justice. She is appealing to the United States, the European Union and other countries to put more pressure on Lukashenko to leave office and end the suffering of her people.
“It is up to every country to live their values of democracy. Are they just words for the country or they want to make these words…into action…It is a challenge for all democratic countries just to prove that human rights is not just words for them,” she said.
Tikhanovskaya said she is in contact with U.S. officials and received a strong message of support from President Biden after his election. She said she hopes to arrange a visit to Washington sometime soon.
While she expresses disappointment in the Kremlin’s support for Lukashenko, she said Belarus has close ties with its Russian neighbor and that will not change. At the same time, she said she sees signs of disaffection emerging toward the regime.
“Putin supported Lukashenko after the election but now we see that Lukashenko is becoming like too expensive for Putin politically and financially…and I am sure that they would prefer Lukashenko to step away,” said Tikhanovskaya.
But she hastens to add, whatever changes occur will happen through peaceful means.
The U.N. Human Rights Council is in session and is expected to adopt a strong resolution on the crisis in Belarus. Tikhanovskaya said she would like the resolution to create a strong group of experts that will monitor conditions in her country and keep world attention focused on the critical situation in Belarus.