Belarusian opposition politician Svetlana Tikhanovskaya called for more mass protests against the 26-year reign of President Alexander Lukashenko while announcing that she would not run for president if new elections were held.
Tikhanovskaya, Lukashenko’s rival in the August 9 elections in which he was controversially declared the winner, fled to neighboring Lithuania after the polls.
She emerged from obscurity to take her husband Siarhei Tsikhanouski’s place in the election campaign after his incarceration in May.
“I have no intention of leading myself,” Tikhanovskaya said in an interview with Belsat TV when asked if she or her husband, a well-known video blogger, would run for president.
Earlier this week, Tikhanovskaya said she was ready to lead Belarus and called for the creation of a legal mechanism to ensure a new fair presidential election is held.
“More than enough,” added Tikhanovskaya, who led some of the biggest protests against Lukashenko since coming to power with the fall of the Soviet Union, when asked if she had had enough of politics.
After the announcement of the election results, mass protests erupted against Lukashenko, and he was accused of rigging the elections.
In a separate press conference on Saturday, his first public remarks since his flight to Lithuania, Tikhanovskaya said Belarusians “will never again accept the current leadership.”
“The future of Belarus, and therefore the future of our children, now depends on your unity and determination. So I ask you – go on and extend the strikes. Don’t be fooled by bullying. Unite, ”she added.
She also said that the release of political prisoners was one of the demands of the demonstrators and that “new fair and transparent elections can restore justice”.
Meanwhile, Lukashenko on Saturday ordered his defense minister to take “strict measures” to defend the country’s territorial integrity against mass protests.
He made the comments during an inspection of military units in Grodno, near the Belarus-Poland border, according to the president’s press service.
Lukashenko denounced the recent protests, which he said were receiving support from Western countries, and ordered the army to defend western Belarus, which he called a “pearl”.
“This implies taking the strictest measures to protect the territorial integrity of our country,” Lukashenko said.