After leaving Belarus for Lithuania, presidential candidate Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s main opponent in the August 9 elections, has addressed her supporters in a video statement in which she describes herself as a “weak woman” forced to make “a very difficult decision.”
“I thought that this whole campaign hardened me a lot and gave me so much strength that I could endure everything. But I probably remained that weak woman that I was at the start” of the campaign, Tsikhanouskaya said, speaking in a tired voice. “I made a very difficult decision for myself. I made it absolutely independently.”
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius, a critic of the conduct of Belarus’ presidential elections, tweeted in the morning of August 11 that Tsikhanouskaya had come to Lithuania and “is safe.”
“I know that many will understand me, many will condemn me. And many will hate me. But, you know, God forbid that anyone face the choice that I faced,” said Tsikhanouskaya.
She did not elaborate further.
On the evening of August 10, Tsikhanouskaya’s 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 Alyaksandr Lukashenka, in office since 1994, as the victor with 80.23 percent of the vote.
However, campaign attorney Maksim Znak, who had been with Tsikhanouskaya in the CEC, said that the candidate left the building of her own accord.
Representatives of the government reportedly spoke with Tsikhanouskaya about not taking steps that could lead to riots. The candidate, who received just over 10 percent of the vote, according to preliminary official data, has not participated in the ongoing election protests.
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. Three thousand people have been detained and scores wounded across Belarus since protests began on the night of August 9, according to the latest official data.
Urging Belarusians to “take care of yourself, please,” Tsikhanouskaya stressed in her video statement that “Not a single life is worth what is happening now. Children are the most important thing in our life.”
Tsikhanouskaya’s own children and one of their grandmothers were taken into the European Union before the August 9 election for safety, the campaign has stated. Her husband, vlogger and former would-be presidential candidate Syarhey Tsikhanouski, remains in jail, facing criminal charges of allegedly conspiring with 33 Russian detainees to provoke uprisings during Belarus’ presidential election.
In response to Tsikhanouskaya’s video statement, ally Veranika Tsapkala, who left Belarus for Russia ahead of the vote, emphasized on August 11 to Current Time that her associate, a homemaker with no previous political experience, “is not a weak woman.”
Tsapkala’s husband, Valer Tsapkala, another former would-be presidential candidate who fled to Russia last month, stressed that the election protests are not over Tsikhanouskaya herself.
Rather, he said, the candidate has become a symbol for Belarusians’ long-pent-up desire for democratic change and an end to dictatorship.