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Angela Merkel meets Belarus opposition leader in Berlin

October 6, 2020

The pair discussed the plight of the Belarusian people following August's disputed election that left Alexander Lukashenko still in power. Tsikhanouskaya also visited the Berlin Wall, calling it a "symbol of freedom."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya in Berlin
Image: Jesco Denzel/Bundespresseamt/dpa/picture alliance

Belarus' exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya met German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday, appealing for help for her country, which has seen weeks of protests following the disputed August 9 election.

"I am very grateful to Germany and all the German parties who are so supportive of the Belarusian people in their fight for freedom, in their fight for new honest and transparent elections," Tsikhanouskaya said after the meeting, which lasted 45 minutes.

Tsikhanouskaya said she hoped Germany would offer support and investments to bolster independent media and civil society, according to a post on her Instagram account.

Since the August election, hundreds of thousands of people in Belarus have protested across the country, in spite of brutal police crackdowns and widespread violence, as citizens demand President Alexander Lukashenko clear the way for a new vote.

Tsikhanouskaya also gifted Merkel a white and red umbrella — the colors used during the long-running mass protests demanding Lukashenko's resignation.

Read more: Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya calls for German mediation in Belarus

Belarus opposition leader calls for German support

Fall of the Berlin Wall an inspiration

Earlier on Tuesday, Tsikhanouskaya visited a fragment of the Berlin Wall ahead of her meeting with Merkel, saying she took inspiration from the symbol and hoped it could galvanize similar change in her homeland.

Tsikhanouskaya, who claims victory in Belarus's presidential election two months ago, accuses President Lukashenko of hanging on to power only via massive electoral fraud. She is in the German capital seeking to shore up international support for her cause.

"The first thing I did in Berlin was come to look at the Berlin Wall," she said of the structure erected by East Germany's Communist regime in 1961 to stop those in the east fleeing their Soviet-backed government.

Read more: Belarus: Scores of women arrested in anti-Lukashenko protest

Solidarity for exiled opposition leader

Tsikhanouskaya went to one piece in particular, at Potsdamer Platz, which activists had painted in Belarus' national colors — red and white — in support of the anti-government movement.

"I was shown a picture of people from the eastern side standing on the wall," she said, referring to the scenes following the collapse of the East German regime in 1989. "It's the same in Belarus: we are on this wall and we are going to tear it down."

Later in the evening on Tuesday, representatives from Merkel's conservative bloc presented the opposition leader with an original piece of the Berlin Wall, which described as a "symbol of freedom."

While in Germany, Tsikhanouskaya is also set to meet German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Wednesday.

see, jsi/rs (dpa, Reuters)