Ex-presidential candidate sentenced to jail

Western-backed Belarusian opposition figure Svetlana Tikhanovskaya was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison

The Minsk City Court on Monday sentenced in absentia former Belarusian presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, to 15 years behind bars and a fine of about US$10,000. 

The Western-backed Tikhanovskaya, along with several other Belarusian opposition leaders, was found guilty of conspiracy to seize power by unconstitutional means, of creating and leading an extremist group, of issuing public calls to seize power, and of other actions aimed at harming national security and instigating social unrest.

Writing on Twitter, Tikhanovskaya claimed the sentence was her “reward” for trying to instill “democratic changes in Belarus.” However, she said that she is not thinking about her own sentence, and instead called for the release of thе “thousands of innocents, detained & sentenced to real prison terms.”

Tikhanovskaya, the wife of jailed political activist Sergey Tikhanovsky, came to prominence in 2020 when she became the figurehead of the Belarusian opposition after having claimed to have won that year’s presidential elections. Officially, she gathered just over 10% of the vote, finishing in second place after Alexander Lukashenko, who secured his sixth presidential term.

However, opposition figures claimed that the vote was rigged, which ultimately sparked mass anti-government protests across the country that lasted for about six months. Protesters demanded the resignation of Lukashenko, the release of political prisoners and a new round of elections.

Amid a crackdown on opposition leaders, Tikhanovskaya fled to neighboring Lithuania. From there, she continues to insist that she won the 2020 elections and has embarked on a tour of Western capitals, calling for sanctions against Lukashenko’s government.

Her pleas have been answered by a large number of Western nations, which have imposed sanctions on Minsk over allegations of elections-rigging and the violent crackdown on protesters and opposition figures.

Lukashenko, meanwhile, has accused the EU of waging a “hybrid war” against Belarus by hosting exiled activists and banned media outlets.

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