Belarusian Nobel Laureate Alexievich urges Lukashenko to leave

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Minsk (AFP)

Belarusian Nobel Prize-winning writer Svetlana Alexievich condemned police violence against protesters in her country and urged strongman Alexander Lukashenko to go there peacefully in an interview published Wednesday.

The 72-year-old author won the 2015 Nobel Prize for Literature for his work chronicling the horrors of war and life under the repressive Soviet regime, including the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

In her first public reaction to the protests that erupted across Belarus following Sunday’s disputed presidential election, the writer told Radio Liberty / Radio Free Europe that Lukashenko should step down peacefully to avoid a bloody civil war.

“Leave before it is too late, before throwing people into a terrible abyss, into the abyss of civil war”, she appealed to Lukashenko, whom she has long criticized.

“You just want power and your desire will end in blood,” she said, accusing the Belarusian authorities of “declaring war on their own people”.

She expressed shock at the “inhuman and satanic” actions of the riot police, saying it was previously unimaginable and suggesting that Minsk could have brought in reinforcements from Russia.

Ahead of Sunday’s presidential election, Alexievich said she would vote for Lukashenko’s main opposition rival, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.

The writer said she understood why Tikhanovskaya, a political novice and until recently a stay-at-home mom, left Belarus for the safety of neighboring Lithuania on Tuesday.

“She was and remains a symbol of change, of the struggle for a new life,” said Alexievich.

“She did what she could. I have nothing bad to say about it. Now, let the men take over. ”

She said she supported opposition politician Valery Tsepkalo, a former diplomat whose wife was part of the Tikhanovskaya campaign team.

Tsepkalo on Wednesday announced a plan to form a political movement called the National Salvation Front to advance the cause of the opposition.

Alexievich expressed his admiration for the Belarusian demonstrators, saying: “I have just fallen in love with my people in recent weeks”.

“They are completely different people, their strength is completely different. I used to be a little disillusioned – not now. “

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