“She gives a lot of hope”: Belarus’s Tsikhanouskaya visits Prague

The Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who ran for president in contested elections last year, is currently in the Czech Republic. The politician and human rights activist is meeting some of the country’s top officials – as well as members of Prague’s large Belarusian exile community.

Hundreds of people – many carrying red and white flags – turned out for the rally Together for Belarus on Prague’s Old Town Square on Monday evening. Publicity listed the main speaker as “President Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya”. Critics say that she was the victim of electoral fraud in a presidential ballot in 2020 that allowed Alexander Lukashenko to stay in power.

Addressing the crowd in Prague, Tsikhanouskaya said the event reminded her of rallies before that vote last August.

“We were travelling from one town to another town and meeting people.

“And no-one believed back then that history will turn out this way.

“When I participate in such protests I feel pride and pain. The pain of what we all went through: pain of tortures, pain of the death of innocent people.

“The pain of what [Belarusian dissidents] Stepan Latypov, Roman Protasevich, Igor Losik and Sergei Tikhanovsky are going through now.

“Unfortunately even a few hours would not be enough for me to name all the political prisoners.”

One of those prisoners, Sergei Tikhanovsky, is Tsikhanouskaya’s husband. Tsikhanouskaya herself fled to Lithuania right after last summer’s elections over fears for her safety.

Despite Lukashenko’s brutal police state tactics, democracy demonstrations are still being held in Belarus – and the opposition leader paid tribute to those taking part.

“I feel proud of those who even now go out to protest and help those who are in trouble.

“I feel proud of those who had to leave the country but who found the opportunity to fight for it further, proud of what are in fact die-hard Belarusians – and that I’m part of this amazing nation.”

On her visit Tsikhanouskaya has been holding talks with several of the Czech Republic’s most senior politicians. But she has also been meeting members of the country’s large Belarusian community, many of whom had to leave their native country for political reasons.

Among them is Marina Puzdrova, who met the opposition leader on Monday. She points out that even in official results Tsikhanouskaya took virtually all the votes of Belarusians in Prague last August.

“She gives a lot of hope. For people, and other members of the Belarusian community.

“As we can observe in Belarus, things are developing very negatively, I would say.

“The repressions are getting tougher and tougher and sometimes one can see no way out from the situation.

“And seeing her personally and her struggle, seeing that she is doing her best on all fronts, on all sides, in the European Union, gathering partners, gathering allies, gives hope that this should bring some fruits.”


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