Under pressure, Belarusian challenger leaves the country


EU THREATENS ACTION: The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell last night stated Sunday’s Belarus election was “neither free nor fair.” The EU will reassess its relations with Minsk, which may include “taking measures against those responsible for the observed violence, unjustified arrests, and falsification of election results.”

European Parliament keeps up the pressure: A group of mostly Central European leaders from different political groups earlier on Tuesday issued a joint statement urging EU leaders to apply targeted sanctions. But as we’ve said before — it remains to be seen whether the EU can reach a consensus to ramp up its sanctions on its neighbor.

DIFFERENT THIS TIME? Borrell’s statement came as protests continued for a third day in Belarus, a sign the social contract that has kept President Alexander Lukashenko in power since 1994 is fraying, Sergei Kuznetsov writes from Minsk. (Lukashenko kept his grip on power by promising stability, in contrast to the wild convulsions that shook other parts of the former Soviet Union.) Over the two and a half decades of Lukashenko’s rule, anti-government protests followed the same pattern: after a police crackdown and a wave of arrests, unrest quickly faded away. But that’s not happening now. Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya is now in neighboring Lithuania, and in a video uploaded to social media Tuesday asked protesters to follow the law. But people taking to the streets in Minsk have no intention of giving up, Sergei reports.

HOW DID WE GET HERE? Jan Cienski has a good explainer.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya is safe in Lithuania, that country’s foreign minister said.  Sergei Gapon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Under pressure, Belarusian challenger leaves the country

The main opponent of Aleksandr Lukashenko, the authoritarian president of Belarus, left the country on Tuesday as violent skirmishes between the police and protesters continued.
Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who ran for president in Sunday’s election, left for Lithuania under pressure from the Belarusian authorities, her associates said. Lithuania’s foreign minister said she was “safe” in his country.
In one video released on Tuesday, in which Ms. Tikhanovskaya appeared to be under duress, she read from a prepared text calling on Belarusians not to protest in public squares or to resist the police.
Tuesday saw a third evening of clashes, though there were signs that the protests were losing momentum in the face of a fierce police response.
Details: With established opposition figures, including her husband, in jail or in exile, Ms. Tikhanovskaya became the face of the campaign against Mr. Lukashenko. Official results, widely considered fraudulent, gave her 10 percent of the vote. In one of her video messages, she hinted that she had left the country for the sake of her children.

Quotable: “I made this decision absolutely independently,” she said in a video. “I know that many will understand me, many will judge me and many will hate me for it. But know that God forbid you will face the kind of choice that I faced.”