Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the exiled challenger of Belarusian dictator Lukashenka, has addressed Belarusians for the first time after her departure to Lithuania amid an unprecedented crackdown on protesters who rose up against elections rigged to keep the incumbent dictator in power for the sixth term.
Then, on 11 August, a visibly distressed Tsikhanouskaya had explained why she left, saying “no life is a good price for what is happening now. Children are the most important thing in our life.“ Another video broadcast shortly thereafter on state media shows the candidate reading a statement from paper which calls upon Belarusians to stop protesting.
This message was widely believed to have been forced out of her, with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda stating that “No sane person would believe that Ms. Tsikhanouskaya’s video statements were made of her own free will.”
- Read more: Presidential challenger Tsikhanouskaya leaves country as Belarusian media broadcast strange video
Now, Tsikhanouskaya is up and willing to fight. In a video shared by the Youtube channel of her campaign “A country for life,” which she took up after her husband Siarhei Tsikhanouskiy was barred from registration as a presidential candidate and imprisoned, supported by the campaigns of two other barred and imprisoned opposition candidates, Valeriy Tsapkala and Viktor Babaryka, she thanks everyone who came into the streets and employees who joined the nationwide boycott, urges the authorities to stop the violence committed by riot police on Belarusian streets and calls upon the mayors of cities to act as organizers of peaceful rallies in their cities.
As well, she calls upon her voters to defend their choice by signing a petition calling to recount the votes and investigate falsifications.
“Dear friends! Over the past few months, we have done the impossible. Six months ago, no one believed that the Belarusians could unite and say ‘No’ to the old regime. But it happened. We came to the polling stations and made our choice – legally, peacefully, and with dignity.
I want to say thank you to those standing by my side: my team, the headquarters of Valeriy Tsapkala, and Viktor Babaryka. I want to say thank you to every person, every voter who voted for me, for changes in our country. And we, supporters of change, are the majority. There is documentary evidence of this – copies of the protocols. Where the commissions counted the votes honestly, my support ranged from 60 to 70%. And in Novaya Borovaya – 90%. Belarusians will never want to live with the previous government again. Most do not believe in his victory.
We have always said that we need to defend our choice only in legal, non-violent ways. And the authorities turned the peaceful protest of citizens in the streets into a bloody massacre. The situation is critical. I look with pain at what is happening in our country in recent days. For me and, I am sure, for each of us, advocates of change, human life is the most valuable thing.
We need to stop violence on the streets of Belarusian cities. I urge the authorities to stop this and start a dialogue. I ask all the mayors of the cities on August 15 and 16 to act as organizers of peaceful mass gatherings in each city.
New peaceful actions appear on the streets of our cities – ‘chains of solidarity’ of women with flowers. They are absolutely not belligerent. They show the whole world that we, Belarusians, are open, honest people and we don’t support violence. I thank the employees who refused to carry out criminal orders against their citizens. I want to thank those who were no longer afraid and went on strike. Thanks to the employees of Belarus Steel Works, the Minsk Electrotechnical Plant, Minsk Automobile Plant, IT companies from the Belarus High Technologies Park, and other teams who joined.
Let’s defend our choice together. Leave your signature to state that you voted for me, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. The link is below the video. Please don’t stand aside. Our voices must be heard.
The form is titled “I voted for Sviatlana Tsikanouskaya and demand a fair investigation of the elections,” which includes calls upon the Central Elections Committee a recount of the votes with the participation of independent observers, and upon the prosecution to investigate falsifications of the process.
In another message spread by her HQ today in Telegram, Tsikhanouskaya called to form a coordinating council for the peaceful transfer of power in Belarus and called upon the authorities to release the detainees, of whom there are around 7,000 according to latest estimates, to remove the riot police and troops from the streets, and punish those who gave criminal orders to shoot and beat people.
We call on the authorities to dialogue.
Good afternoon friends.
My headquarters, the headquarters of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, continues to work. Maria Moroz remains the chief of staff. She is with me and continues to lead the headquarters. I confirm the powers of Olga Kovalkova and Nikolai Kozlov as my trustees who will coordinate the activities of my headquarters in Belarus.
I declare that we are ready for dialogue with the authorities.
Taking into account what is happening in the country and the need to take urgent measures to restore the rule of law in Belarus, I, Sviatlana Tikhanouskaya, initiate the creation of a Coordinating Council to ensure the transfer of power. This council may include representatives of civil society, respected and well-known Belarusians, professionals in their field. I instruct my confidant Olga Kovalkova and lawyer Maksim Znak to accept applications for the nomination of council members from organizations and associations of citizens.
Thanks to all people, all organizations that supported me and are ready to help in the negotiation process.
I ask you to unite into a coordinating council. We really need your help and experience. We need your connections, contacts, expert advice, and support. This coordinating council should include everyone who is interested in dialogue and the peaceful transfer of power – work collectives, parties, trade unions, and other civil society organizations.
I appeal to the international community, European countries with a request to help us in organizing a dialogue with the Belarusian authorities.
I admire Belarusians. Thank you my dears! We have done the impossible. We showed that we are the majority. And this country belongs to us, the people of Belarus, and not to one person.
I express my condolences to every victim these days, to every family. It was very hard for me to watch how the authorities plunged our cities into violence over the past week. This should never happen again.
The authorities must show their readiness for dialogue with the people.
This means to release all the detainees.
This means removing the riot police and troops from the streets of the cities.
This means launching criminal cases against those who gave criminal orders to beat and shoot people.
I appeal to the mayors of the cities. Go out and start talking, listening to people. It is within your competence to organize legal and peaceful rallies in the city squares.
I appeal to the police, army and other security officials. Do not follow criminal orders. Talk to your superiors, stop the bloodshed. You swore an oath to serve the Republic of Belarus and your people. We, the people, will be grateful to everyone who will take the side of the people.
Over the last few days, Belarus has been up in flames, with protests engulfing the streets of all cities, lead enterprises of the country joining an ever-growing nationwide strike, people of all walks of life forming protest chains, including chains of women in white with flowers, which harks back to the Damas de Blanco, an opposition movement in Cuba founded in 2003 by wives and other female relatives of jailed dissidents. The last days have seen propagandists resigning from state-controlled TV and harrowing stories of tortured detainees. The whole state of Belarus has risen in an act of extraordinary self-organization, but after Tsikhanouskaya’s departure, a political center of the protests was lacking. It appears that this political center has arrived.