Foreign Minister Champagne meets with Belarusian opposition leader in exile in Lithuania

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Canada’s Foreign Minister pledged to support Belarusian opposition figure Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who is in exile in Lithuania, during a meeting on Friday.François-Philippe Champagne told Tikhanovskaya that Canada “will always be on your side”.

“In fact, I think you can expect (the whole) international community to be with you and the Belarusian people for the democratic future of your country,” Champagne said after the meeting, at the final stage of his European tour.

Champagne said the result of the August 9 presidential elections in Belarus, which gave the country’s longtime strongman President Alexander Lukashenko a landslide victory strongly contested by the opposition, was “fraudulent.”

Champagne’s visit to the Baltic country follows Tikhanovskaya’s meetings with European leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The United States and the European Union denounced the elections in Belarus as neither free nor fair and introduced sanctions against Belarusian officials responsible for alleged election rigging and repression of protests.

“This is a very clear sign for criminals in Belarus that the international community is watching them and that they should think twice before (unleashing) a new wave of violence against their own people,” Tikhanovskaya said after his talks. with Champagne.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko attends his inauguration ceremony in Minsk on September 23, 2020 (Andrei Stasevich / BelTA / AFP / Getty Images)

Tikhanovskaya has warned the Minsk government that she will call a nationwide strike in Belarus later this month unless Lukashenko, who won a sixth term in August, resigns, frees political prisoners and stops the brutal crackdown on protesters .

Earlier on Friday, Belarusian authorities announced they had issued an arrest warrant for Tikhanovskaya, who had fled to neighboring Lithuania after the elections, accusing him of “attempts to overthrow constitutional order” and be a threat to national security.

“I continue to struggle with this diet. After our victory, all these charges will be dropped, ”Tikhanovskaya said.

The announcement of the arrest warrant follows reports that she was on a wanted list in Russia. Moscow has firmly supported Lukashenko amid two months of large protests. Moscow refused to speak to Tikhanovskaya and other opposition activists.

During the first visit to Lithuania by a Canadian foreign minister in 24 years, Champagne was also due to meet his counterparts from neighboring Lithuania and Estonia and Latvia.



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