The leader of the Belarusian opposition in exile, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, has hailed her first meeting with President Zelensky after their paths briefly crossed in Germany on Sunday.
Tsikhanouskaya said in a post on Twitter she was “honored” to meet the Ukrainian president, adding: “We stand united with Ukraine for freedom & for democracy.”
I was honored to meet President @ZelenskyyUa today in #Aachen & to congratulate him on this year's @KarlspreisAC. We stand united with Ukraine 🇺🇦 for freedom & for democracy. #karlspreis2023 pic.twitter.com/h2XX9SOAQQ— Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya (@Tsihanouskaya) May 14, 2023
Kyiv and the Belarusian opposition have a fractured relationship – on paper, they’re united by a common enemy in Russia and Putin’s ally in Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko.
But an appeal from Tsikhanouskaya last year to “create an alliance with democratic Belarus, fight together and support the Belarusian resistance” has been met with silence so far from Ukraine.
Kyiv, for its part, is walking a delicate line of trying to keep Lukashenko from committing his armed forces into Russia’s invasion.
Ukraine is also disappointed with the Belarusian opposition’s inability so far to mobilize popular protests against Lukashenko.
Undeterred, Tsikhanouskaya has continued to be vocal in her support of Ukraine’s fight. In February, for example, when partisans destroyed a Russian plane at an airstrip near the Belarus capital Minsk, she wrote on Twitter: “I am proud of all Belarusians who continue to resist the Russian hybrid occupation of Belarus & fight for the freedom of Ukraine.”
I am proud of all Belarusians who continue to resist the Russian hybrid occupation of Belarus & fight for the freedom of Ukraine. Your brave actions show the world that Belarus stands against imperial aggression. Glory to our heroes! https://t.co/cechjiHolb— Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya (@Tsihanouskaya) February 26, 2023
Tsikhanouskaya and Zelensky’s brief meeting came amidst potentially significant developments in Belarus with rumors swirling about the health of Lukashenko.
A Russian politician confirmed on Sunday that Lukashenko is ill but played down how sick the Belarus dictator is, saying “he needs some rest, that’s all.”
Konstantin Zatulin, first deputy head of the Russian Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, told a Russian news outlet that “a man is just sick.”
He added: “There's nothing supernatural there; it’s not a covid [sic].
“Even though the man was ill, he considered it his duty to come to Moscow and then, in the evening of the same day, he held events in Minsk. Probably, he needs some rest, that’s all.”
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