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 Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya
Tsikhanouskaya fled Belarus after running for the presidency in 2020Image: DW

Belarus sentences exiled opposition leader to 15 years

March 6, 2023

A Belarusian court has sentenced opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who is being tried in absentia, to 15 years in prison.


A court in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, on Monday handed a 15-year sentence to exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the state news agency Belta reported.

Tsikhanouskaya, who is being tried in her absence, escaped Belarus after running for the presidency in 2020 against Alexander Lukashenko.

What was Tsikhanouskaya accused of?

The 40-year-old was charged with conspiring to seize power and high treason. Mass protests followed the election, with the opposition and Western governments claiming that the vote — which saw Lukashenko tighten his grasp on power with a sixth term — was rigged.

The demonstrations were the largest and the most prolonged since Lukashenko came to power in 1994. The regime unleashed a brutal crackdown against the protesters, with more than 35,000 people detained.

Tsikhanouskaya is being tried alongside four other opposition figures, also in absentia, in the Belarusian capital, Minsk. She currently leads the opposition from exile in Lithuania.

The five all fled Belarus in the wake of the election and protests. Tsikhanouskaya's supporters have dismissed the charges against her as a politically-motivated farce.

Russia, Belarus further strengthen military ties

A Minsk court handed a 10-year jail term to Nobel Prize-winning activist Ales Bialiatski on Friday,  in a ruling that was widely condemned internationally. 

Bialiatski was arrested in 2021 and alongside three co-defendants he was charged with financing protests and smuggling money. The 60-year-old founded the authoritarian nation's most prominent rights group, Viasna, and has repeatedly been targeted by security forces

While Russia and Belarus are allied in a "Union State," that sees Moscow as the far more powerful partner, Lukashenko dismissed media reports this week that the Kremlin has drawn up a plan to absorb Belarus by 2030.

Lukashenko, a longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, allowed Belarus to be used as a staging post for Moscow's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

rc/rt (AFP, AP)