Belarus opposition leader hopes Lukashenko regime will collapse

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Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya says she hopes that Alexander Lukashenko regime will collapse in the face of the mass demonstrations against his disputed re-election.

In an interview with FRANCE 24, she called on the government not to engage in a bloody escalation and said the resignation of Lukashenko as president is a precondition to organize “free and fair and transparent” elections.

“We want another country, we want another president,” she said.

Speaking from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, Tikhanovskaya regretted this Monday’s meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko in Sochi. “We are really sorry that Mr Putin… he goes to the side of the dictator but not the side of Belarusian people,” she said.

The exiled opposition leader brushed aside concerns that Russia might plan a military intervention in Belarus like it did in Ukraine, saying that the issue in her country was “our internal affair”.

Tikhanovskaya said that while she and other opposition leaders had met with foreign officials, no such meetings or contacts have taken place with Russian officials. She said her jailed husband Sergei was being fairly treated and added that the same was true for fellow opposition figure Maria Kolesnikova, who was arrested last week.

Finally, she called on the EU and the US to slap individual sanctions on members of the regime’s leadership. She described Lukashenko as a criminal, saying the people had become fed up with the regime. “We want a new country, safe and free, where our children will not be slaves of the system,” she concluded.

Putin Backs Lukashenko

President Vladimir Putin on Monday backed Alexander Lukashenko and promised economic support as the Belarusian strongman vowed to strengthen ties with Moscow.

Lukashenko thanked Putin for his support and vowed to stick closer to “elder brother” Moscow during one-to-one talks at the Russian president’s residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

The Belarusian leader was making his first foreign trip since his disputed win in August 9 presidential polls prompted mass protests against his rule, the latest drawing tens of thousands on Sunday in Minsk.

Putin appeared to endorse Lukashenko’s political future, praising the Belarusian’s sketched-out plans for constitutional changes to appease the opposition.

The Russian president said during joint televised comments he was “sure that considering your experience” this would “allow the development of the country’s political system to reach new heights.”