Belarus election: Opposition leader Tikhanovskaya fled ‘for sake of her children’

Belarus’s main opposition leader says she took a “very difficult decision” to leave the country, after disputing an election result she claimed was rigged.

In a YouTube video, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said she did it for her children as protests continued for a second night. One person has died.

She was “safe” now in Lithuania, the country’s foreign minister said.

Poll results gave President Alexander Lukashenko 80% of the vote, but there have been numerous claims of fraud.

Violent clashes between police and protesters have broken out over the two nights since the election was held, and there have been numerous reports of police brutality.

Mr Lukashenko, 65, who has ruled the former Soviet country since 1994, has described opposition supporters as “sheep” controlled from abroad.

But Ms Tikhanovskaya has galvanised the opposition, which presented a stronger than ever challenge to the autocratic leader. The 37-year-old announced her candidacy after her husband was arrested and blocked from registering for the vote.

When she attempted to register a complaint about the results on Monday she was detained for seven hours.

A second video of her, apparently made during her detention, has also now emerged. In it she urges her supporters not to join protests or confront the police.

In an emotional video address to supporters (in Russian) recorded before her departure for Lithuania, Ms Tikhanovskaya said she had overestimated her own strength.

“I thought that this campaign had really steeled me and given me so much strength that I could cope with anything,” she said.

“But I guess I’m still the same weak woman that I was.”

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She said her decision to leave was taken “completely independently” and not influenced by anyone around her, even though many people would “condemn” or “hate” her for it.

“Not one life is worth what is happening now,” she added. “Children are the most important things in our lives.”

Ms Tikhanovskaya sent her children to Lithuania for safety before the election.

Earlier Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius tweeted about Ms Tikhanovskaya’s whereabouts after rumours that she had disappeared.

Source: BBC