Belarusian presidential candidate Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya has left Belarus, where confrontations over election fraud on August 10 left one person dead, and gone to Lithuania, according to Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius.
“Svetlana #Tikhanovskaya is safe. She is in #Lithuania,” Foreign Minister Linkevicius tweeted in the early morning on August 11.
Tsikhanouskaya’s campaign staff has not yet responded to the Lithuanian foreign minister’s statement.
On the evening of August 10, the campaign alleged the 37-year-old candidate was being held by force in Belarus’ Central Election Commission after she went to file a complaint about the results of the presidential election that named President Lukashenka, in office since 1994, as the victor with 80.23 percent of the vote.
However, attorney Maksim Znak, who had been with Tsikhanouskaya in the CEC, said that the candidate left the building of her own accord. “She is not detained. She’s free. Her phone is turned on. I think she’ll comment on what happened. I don’t know about this,” the news service TUT.by reported him as saying.
Znak did not know where she went after leaving the CEC.
Representatives of the government reportedly spoke with Tsikhanouskaya, who has not participated in ongoing election protests, about not taking steps that could lead to riots.
Tsikhanouskaya campaign spokeswoman Hanna Krasulina later told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Belarusian Service that, after leaving the CEC, Tsikhanouskaya said “I’ve made a decision.” Krasulina could not specify where she had gone or what that decision was.
Stating that they feared arrest, Tsikhanouskaya’s political allies, IT entrepreneur Valer Tsapkala, who was denied registration as a presidential candidate, and his wife, Veranika Tsapkala, have both fled the country and gone to Russia.
Tsikhanouskaya’s children already have been moved to the European Union with one of their grandmothers for safety. Her husband, jailed vlogger Syarhey Tsikhanouski, an outspoken government critic and unregistered presidential candidate for whose sake she started a presidential campaign, faces criminal charges related to the detention of 33 Russians suspected of plotting to disrupt Belarus’ presidential elections.
Anger over alleged widespread election fraud, harsh restrictions on independent monitors, crackdowns on potential presidential candidates, journalists, vloggers, and opposition activists has been growing steadily since the election’s end on August 9.
Some 3,000 people were detained across Belarus on the night of August 9-10 for taking part in unauthorized street protests against suspected election fraud that handed Lukashenka his sixth presidential reelection.
On August 10, the Interior Ministry confirmed that one man had died when he allegedly tried to throw an explosive device at special forces in Minsk.