Belarusian Opposition Leader Tsikhanouskaya Meets With Germany's Merkel
By RFE/RL October 06, 2020
Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya is meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin in a bid to further raise international pressure on the Eastern European country's longtime ruler, Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
Tsikhanouskaya, whom Belarus's opposition says won the August presidential election, is expected to encourage Berlin to play a greater role in resolving the political crisis when she meets Merkel on October 6, German media reported.
She is also expected to press Germany, the current holder of the European Union's rotating presidency, to support expanded EU sanctions on Belarus.
Last week, the 27-nation bloc overcame a weeks-long political stalemate and agreed to place sanctions on 40 Belarusian officials responsible for electoral fraud and a brutal crackdown on protesters and opposition members.
Protests against Lukashenka have continued unabated for eight weeks despite a brutal crackdown, with several killed, hundreds injured, and more than 10,000 detained.
Much of the opposition leadership has been detained or forced into exile. Tsikhanouskaya fled to neighboring Lithuania soon after the protests against the election results began.
Before meeting with Merkel, Tsikhanouskaya called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to end his support for Lukashenka and warned against Moscow interfering in Belarus affairs.
"I would ask Mr. Putin not to support the regime because what's going on in Belarus is our internal affairs," Tsikhanouskaya told attendees at a German Marshall Fund event in Berlin.
Russia is Belarus's closest political, economic, and military ally. In response to domestic and international pressure on Belarus, Putin has pledged economic aid and potentially security support to prop up Lukashenka if the situation deteriorates.
Tsikhanouskaya's visit to Berlin comes as tensions between Germany and Russia are already soaring following the suspected poisoning of Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny with a military-grade nerve agent.
Navalny, who blames the poisoning on Putin, continues to recover since being released from a Berlin hospital on September 22 after spending 32 days in the clinic.
There is growing pressure on Merkel from both within her government and opposition to respond to Navalny's poisoning with sanctions on Russia and by halting the nearly completed Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline bringing Russian natural gas to Germany.
After meeting Merkel, Tsikhanouskaya is due to meet the leaders of Germany's Green party in Berlin. The Green party is calling for a tougher response on Belarus and an end to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Tsikhanouskaya will also meet with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
With reporting by Tagesschau, dpa, and Sueddeutsche Zeitung
Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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