Valery Tsepkalo, who was barred from participating in the Belarusian election set for 9 August and escaped to Moscow with his children, has surfaced in Kyiv, his press secretary told Interfax.
The former ambassador to the US and Mexico and former Head of the Belarus Hi-Tech Park is one of the three Lukashenka rivals who were not allowed to participate in the elections. Tsepkalo was not allowed to register after too many signatures on his application to become a presidential candidate were declared invalid on 14 July. He gathered 200,000 signatures, his campaign passed on 160,000 to the Central Election Committee of Belarus; the latter said that under 80,000 of them are valid, below the threshold of 100,000.
On 24 July, Tsepkalo with two children left Belarus for Russia, fearing being arrested in his homeland. His wife told it was possible that the Belarusian authorities were preparing the ground to not only arrest her husband but also deprive the family of parental rights, which is why the children were evacuated as well.
Two more presidential contenders, former Belagazprombank head Viktar Babaryka and popular vlogger Siarhei Tsikhanouski, were arrested and also barred from registering.
But the wives of the barred candidates have taken up the torch. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, wife to vlogger Siarhei, is now a registered candidate and gathering thousand-strong rallies throughout the country in her support. The wives of the remaining two candidates, Maria Kalesnikava and Veranika Tsapkala, have also joined the campaign in her support. The presidential election is set for 9 August; the female trio and the public support they receive present the largest challenge to Belarus’ incumbent president since he assumed power in 1994.
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