Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Belarus’ exiled opposition leader, has told Kyiv Post that she would “be honored” to meet President Zelensky to “demonstrate that Belarusians are on the side of the Ukrainian people."
Tsikhanouskaya said on Monday, Dec. 19, 2022, she would like to see such a meeting take place “even just to pay respect to the courageous fight of Ukrainians for their freedom,” adding, “We have the same enemies and to be successful in defending our independence we need to stay together.
“Divisions between our peoples are in the interests of dictators. We see significant potential in our joint efforts to address the threats of today but also to prepare for the future.”
Speaking to Kyiv Post in November, Belarusian opposition activist Vitali Shkliarov also stressed that “Tsikhanouskaya and her cabinet are Ukraine’s allies,” and urged the Ukrainian government to support her.
“She represents millions of Belarusians under occupation and thousands of political prisoners who reach out for Volodymyr Zelensky,” he said. “I think it’s time to formalize this alliance and provide support for a free Belarus, so that our forces confronted by the Russian threat grow tenfold.
“This is a matter of both Ukraine’s national security and the future of nine million Belarusians.
“The official recognition of Free Belarus and its president Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya by Ukraine would launch the mechanism of such recognition throughout Europe and the rest of the world. It would be a powerful move toward mercy and reconciliation, mutual help and cultural reintegration of Belarusians inside and beyond their country.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin (L) of Finland meets with exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya at the Parliament in Helsinki, Finland, on December 13, 2022.
Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva / AFP
“By far, of all European leaders, only Lukashenko, Putin and Zelensky haven’t met with Tsikhanouskaya, yet, and haven’t recognized her election,” he added.
Tsikhanouskaya herself is keen to debunk claims that the people of Belarus side with Russia in its illegal invasion of Ukraine and believes that the current regime can only be changed from within.
“The fact is that Belarusians are against Lukashenka, and they clearly declared their desire to bring power back to people,” she told Kyiv Post. “The regime senses this and tries to eliminate any signs of protest.
“There are various scenarios how change will happen in Belarus, but I am convinced it must happen from within. This also relates to the war in Ukraine. There are many voices saying that Ukraine's victory will create an opportunity for Belarus to get rid of the dictatorship. I say I believe in Ukraine's victory, and I will support Ukraine to defeat Russians. But this does not mean that Belarusians need to wait till their problems will be resolved by others.
“It is our duty and responsibility to defend and preserve our independence and to bring democratic change in Belarus.”
Responding to growing concerns of Belarus sending troops into Ukraine, particularly following yesterday’s meeting in Minsk between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko, Tsikhanouskaya said:
“Belarusian armed forces are part of the society and share the same view on the war – 86 percent of Belarusians are against participation in the war. This has stopped the order to send the Belrusian troops to the battlefield in Ukraine. It was not the good will of dictators or Lukashneka's standing up to Putin - he is fully on the Kremlin's side.
“However, the probability of such an order remains and might increase in coming weeks. I think the Ukrainian leadership is right to prepare for this scenario even though it means distracting significant forces from active war zones in the southeast.”
The defiant politician is blunt about the present state of her homeland.
“The regime is insecure and cannot re-establish control over the country. It has become completely detached from the people and acts with the sole goal to preserve Lukashenka's power, even if it means yielding sovereignty to Russians. There are thousands of political prisoners - the highest rate per capita in the world. In addition to repressions because of the internal crisis, scores of Belarusians are persecuted because they support Ukraine in the war.
Despite there currently being no sign of Zelensky seeking to meet her, she is also determined that a future relationship between Ukraine and a free Belarus would be beneficial to both nations.
“My firm conviction is that Belarus and Ukraine are interested in seeing each other democratic with mutual security guarantees, reliable and responsible. Lukashenka has lost the trust of the Ukrainian people for good and there is no turning back for him. I believe that a broad partnership between our nations is the goal to pursue to fully use and develop the potential of our bilateral relations.”
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