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Belarus: Macron to meet opposition leader Tsikhanouskaya

Sviatlana Tikhanovskaya has requested that French president act as a political mediator. Meanwhile, Macron and the Lithuanian president urged the EU to sanction Belarus.

French President Emmanuel Macron will hold talks in Lithuania with Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya on Tuesday.

Tsikhanouskaya has requested Macron act as a mediator in the ongoing crisis in Belarus.

Tsikhanouskaya said Macron could encourage Russian President Vladimir Putin, a key ally of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, to take part in the dialogue. 

"The protests are not going to stop," Tsikhanouskaya told AFP, adding that Belarus "badly needs" a dialogue between government and opposition in order to ensure there is "no more blood."

Macron meets with Lithuanian President Nauseda

Macron's trip comes as part of a three-day visit to Lithuania, which also saw him meet with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda late Monday. During their meeting, the two leaders agreed that the European Union should decide on sanctions against Belarus at the summit of the bloc's leaders later this week, Nauseda told reporters.

"We agreed that the European Union cannot waste time and have to do everything so that sanctions are discussed and agreed and confirmed at the next EU leaders' summit," said Nauseda, after talks with Macron in the capital Vilnius.

Macron also called on Russia to provide clarifications on the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, threatening international consequences without elaborating further.

"This is very clearly a murder attempt carried out on Russian soil, against a Russian opposition leader with a chemical agent manipulated in Russia. It is therefore up to Russia to provide clarifications," he said.

Read moreSvetlana Alexievich: Nobel lauerate leaves Belarus for Germany

The crisis in Belarus

Belarus has been in political turmoil since protests broke out last month after Tsikhanouskaya lost to Lukashenko in an election critics say was rigged.

Tsikhanouskaya has been living in exile in Lithuania since late August. The 38-year-old has also called for EU sanctions against businesses that support Lukashenko.

Read moreBelarus: Anti-Lukashenko protesters hold 'people's inauguration' march

Watch video 00:34

Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya: The nation has not given Lukashenko a new mandate

Why the meeting with Macron?

Ahead of Macron's visit to Vilnius, he told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper that it was "clear that Lukashenko has to go," adding that he was impressed by the courage of the protesters.

"They know the risks they are taking by demonstrating every weekend, and yet, they are pushing forward with the movement to make democracy come alive in this country that has been deprived for so long," he said.

The meeting with Macron would be Tsikhanouskaya's most high-profile meeting with an international leader since the contentious election. She has previously met with leaders in neighboring Poland and Lithuania, which have also been involved in European diplomacy on Belarus. 

It is the first such trip by a French head of state to the Baltic region in two decades.

Read more:EU response to Belarus protests hampered by internal divisions 

lc/rt (dpa, AFP, Reuters)